KIEV, Feb. 4 – President Viktor Yushchenko said Monday he may postpone his annual address to Parliament indefinitely following the failure of the pro-Western coalition and pro-Russian opposition to agree on the legislative session’s agenda.
Yushchenko was expected to address lawmakers Tuesday, but the opposition, which had blocked the podium for the past two weeks over the declared intention to join NATO, had refused to cooperate.
“Unless the compromise is found today, I am ready to meet the wishes of those forces that do not want the president to address the lawmakers,” Yushchenko told reporters Monday. The president said he may “postpone the address until emotions, which run high for some political groups, calm down.”
But talks on Monday between the coalition and the opposition have failed to resolve the issue, suggesting the standoff will continue in Parliament on Tuesday.
The Regions Party, the largest opposition group controlling 175 seats in the 450-seat Parliament, leads the protests ever since Ukraine’s leaders have requested to join the Membership Action Plan, the program preceding the accession to NATO.
Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Parliamentary Speaker Arseniy Yatseniuk asked NATO for permission to join the MAP as soon as in April. That could technically lead to Ukraine’s accession to NATO within the next two years.
Viktor Yanukovych, a former prime minister and the leader of Regions Party, has been always cautious about Ukraine’s speedy accession to NATO.
Yanukovych met Yushchenko earlier on Monday to say that his group would let the session go ahead if Parliament approves a resolution stipulating that the accession to NATO can be made after referendum.
Yanukovych also demanded that lawmakers review a recent encounter between Internal Affairs Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetskiy that had led to Lutsenko slapping Chernovetskiy’s face.
The coalition agreed to debate and to approve the two suggested resolutions, but the opposition had still failed to accept them. The next round of talks is scheduled to take place Tuesday morning, but there was a little hope among lawmakers that an agreement would be found.
“I believe the political stand-off will keep deteriorating,” Volodymyr Lytvyn, the leader of a small centrist bloc in Parliament, said. “The parties will need more arguments.” (tl/ez)