KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- The Ukrainian president on Monday signed a bill dropping his country's nonaligned status but signaled that he will hold a referendum before seeking NATO membership.
The bill, which Parliament adopted last week and Petro Poroshenko signed into the law at a news conference on Monday, has angered Moscow which called it a threat to its own and Europe's security.
Poroshenko said he is working to reform the Ukrainian economy and its military forces to meet European Union and NATO standards, but he will leave it up to Ukrainian citizens to decide in a popular vote whether to join NATO or not.
"When we are able to conform to these criteria, the people of Ukraine will make up their mind about the membership," Poroshenko said and added that this will likely happen in the next five to six years.
With a war against pro-Russian separatists in the east and its economy in shambles, Ukraine has much to overcome to achieve the stability that the alliance seeks in its members.
The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France will get together in Kazakhstan on Jan. 15 to discuss a peace settlement, Poroshenko announced on Monday. This will be the first such high-profile summit on the conflict since June.
Poroshenko added that he still believes that there is "no military solution" to the conflict in the east.
Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed to this report from Moscow.