BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has said it will remain open to Ukraine after the country's decision to shelve its membership bid.
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO's doors "remain open," despite the Ukrainian parliament's approval of a bill preventing the country from joining NATO. The move was widely seen as further evidence the new government in Kyiv is overturning the previous government's pro-Western policies.
The draft law is expected to be signed by Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych in the weeks to come. The bill excludes the goal of integration into Euro-Atlantic security and NATO membership.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO would take no decision to reverse the Bucharest agreement, welcoming membership for both Ukraine and Georgia.
"The Bucharest decision still stands. We have no intention to change that decision….our door remains open," Rasmussen said.
But the NATO chief also stressed the organization is voluntary.
"It's for each individual country in Europe to decide its alliance affiliation, which means that it's also for Ukraine to decide how its relationship with NATO should develop in the coming years," Rasmussen added.
Ukraine's decision to shelve its plans to join NATO was crafted by the president himself. The parliamentary bill commits Ukraine to "a non-bloc policy which means non-participation in military-political alliances."
But NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that does not mean NATO's cooperation with Ukraine is over. He confirmed the Ukrainian Defense Minister would be participating in an upcoming NATO-Ukraine meeting.
"Our cooperation with Ukraine will continue within the existing framework and then it's for Ukraine to decide how this relationship and partnership should develop in the coming years."
Earlier this week, officials from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed concern about media censorship and physical attacks on journalists in Ukraine - charges Viktor Yanukovych's government denies.
In Brussels, NATO officials publicly insist Ukraine makes its own decisions, and is welcome to join the alliance should it change its mind. But there is still lingering concern that Ukraine is drifting away from Europe, in an effort to get closer to Moscow.