World Bulletin / News Desk
The EU reached a crucial compromise with the Netherlands on Thursday to save the bloc's historic association pact with Ukraine, after Dutch voters rejected the accord in a referendum.
European Union leaders gave Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte special pledges limiting defence commitments to Ukraine, and saying that the pact does not entail future membership for Kiev.
"It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pleasant, but it is necessary, because it ensures that the EU can continue to form a united front against destabilising Russian foreign policy," Rutte said.
"This decision is important because it sets out once and for all what the Association Agreement means and -- above all -- what it does not mean. After today there can be no misunderstanding on that score."
The 28 EU leaders agreed a special statement saying that the Ukraine accord "does not confer on Ukraine the status of a candidate country for accession to the Union, nor does it constitute a commitment to confer such status to Ukraine in the future".
It also says the pact "does not contain an obligation for the union or its member states to provide collective security guarantees or other military aid or assistance to Ukraine".
Rutte had warned earlier that it would be the "biggest ever present" for Russian President Vladimir Putin if the EU-Ukraine cooperation deal was torpedoed by popular opposition in the Netherlands.
EU leaders separately agreed at the summit to extend economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine for another six months until mid 2017, officials said.
The EU agreed the cooperation pact and an associated free trade agreement with Ukraine in 2014 after pro-EU protestors ousted Russia-leaning president Viktor Yanukovych who fled to Moscow.
But Dutch voters opposed the deal on the grounds it opened the door to Ukraine's membership of the bloc and amounted to a defence guarantee for a country already embroiled in bloody conflict with Russia
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