KYIV: Ukraine and Poland said on Friday that they were ready to try to resolve “problematic” issues in their relations, suffering especially by a Polish truckers’ blockade of border crossings.
The pledge emerged from a meeting in Kyiv between Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski, who was on his first official trip abroad.
Ukraine has counted Poland as one of its closest European Union allies as it battles an almost two-year-old Russian invasion.
Poland, now led by a centrist, pro-European Union cabinet under Prime Minister Donald Tusk, has given Ukraine humanitarian and military assistance and taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees.
But relations have been overshadowed by a protest blockade of several border crossings by Polish truck drivers, and what Kyiv has seen as a lack of initiative by the now former Polish nationalist government to resolve the problem.
Polish hauliers are angry over a loss of business to competition from Ukrainian truckers who have benefitted from permit-free access to EU territory since the war began.
They want permits for Ukrainian truckers reinstated, something Kyiv and the European Commission say is not negotiable. The protests have resulted in economic losses for Ukraine and also affected vital volunteer military aid supplies.
Poland’s deputy infrastructure minister who joined Sikorski for the trip to Kyiv said after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart that he hoped the truckers’ protests could be solved before the end of the year.
A new page in relations
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky, quoted by his website, told Sikorski that Ukraine hoped “to open a new page in our relations. We are strong neighbours with a joint history.”
At a news conference alongside Sikorski, Kuleba said the visit showed there would be a meaningful and mutually respectful dialogue between the countries.
“We started with the need to resolve problematic issues in bilateral relations. And there is a desire to solve these issues on both sides. We need to sit down and talk in detail in order to find balanced, legally sound solutions,” Kuleba told reporters after talks with Sikorski.
Sikorski said the countries must restore conditions for fair competition so that everyone benefits from trade and transport.
“There are always some issues to be resolved between neighbours related to history or current affairs,” he said.
The Ukrainian farm ministry said earlier on Friday that the countries had already held online talks.
An air raid siren sounded during the news conference in Ukraine’s capital, which was targeted by another large-scale Russian drone attack in the night.
“This alarm you hear is the reason why I am here. It is unacceptable…In this titanic fight, Poland is on your side,” Sikorski said.
Sikorski said during a separate press conference at the Polish embassy in Kyiv that both countries would find ways for their defence sector companies “to do much more than today, to increase military production which is badly needed”.
“This is an issue of what we can all do together to make enough military equipment and make enough ammunition to send (Russian President Vladimir) Putin back to where he belongs…Russia.”