Israeli President Shimon Peres welcomed President Victor Yushchenko to the Presidential Palace in Jerusalem on Wednesday for talks expected to focus on how to develop Ukraine’s ties with Israel, according to the President`s press-office.

The Ukrainian leader said his country regarded its relations with Israel as “strategically important” and “confirms its commitment to common values of democracy and its determination to act together with Israel to respond to ethnic, peace and security challenges.”

Yushchenko said Ukraine was interested in enhancing its cooperation with Israel and also appreciated “our traditionally friendly and mutually beneficial relations.” “It has taken years to lay this foundation. Its political, legal, economic and humanitarian pillars are firm, reliable and, I am convinced, unbreakable,” he said.

The president insisted it was necessary to encourage communication between our nations and develop business and scientific ties. He also said Ukraine supported all “constructive international efforts” aimed at achieving peace in the Middle East and was ready to “reinforce its practical contribution to these processes.”

He said he had come to Israel to “receive the support of our partners in each important and useful initiative that will… benefit both nations.”

Shimon Peres expressed confidence Yushchenko’s visit would help develop his country’s friendly relations with Ukraine and added that lots of Ukrainian Jews lived in Israel.

The two leaders are now holding face-to-face talks and will attend a ceremony to sign bilateral agreements after their meeting.