Lithuania’s foreign, defense ministers in Washington for security talks

The Baltic Times
TBT Staff and Wire Reports, VILNIUS

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas and Defense Minister Juozas Olekas arrived in Washington Aug. 7 for a twoday meeting with senior U.S. officials to discuss international security and defense issues.

On Aug. 7, at the U.S. Department of State, the ministers met with Deputy U.S. Secretary of State John Negroponte and Aide to the the Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Matters Daniel Fried. Initial reports from that meeting, which came out just as The Baltic Times was going to press, said that Negroponte expressed his appreciation for Lithuania as a U.S. ally, and affirmed that Lithuania and the Baltic region will continue to be the focus of U.S. attention.

“They will discuss energy, security, Iraq, Afghanistan and other issues of mutual interest,” Chase Beamer, press officer at the State Department”s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, told The Baltic Times in an email prior to the meeting.

The ministers were expected to visit Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England at the Pentagon the following day.

Lithuania has a close military relationship with the U.S. The country is an active NATO member, and participates in coalition operations and missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.

“As members of NATO and strong allies, the United States and Lithuania have common goals for advancing global security and spreading democratic institutions throughout the region and beyond. This highlevel visit demonstrates once again the close ties that allow the United States and Lithuania to work together as transatlantic partners,” said Carlos Aranaga, Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius.

A total of 233 Lithuanian troops are currently deployed on international operations and missions. In July, Lithuania strengthened its participation in the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation by sending special forces troops to southern Afghanistan.

In an event that underscored the importance of defense issues for the former Soviet republic, Vaitiekunas held a phone conversation with Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili on Aug. 7 expressing his concern over an incident wherein a Russian military airplane reportedly violated Georgia”s airspace.

Georgia declared that its airspace was violated on Aug. 7 when a Russian plane fired at least one missile that landed on a field near the village of Citelubani close to the border of the disputed territory of South Ossetia. The Kremlin has denied Georgia”s accusations.

Vaitiekunas said that the international community must take careful measures in protecting Georgia, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry reported.

In response, Negroponte assured Lithuania that the issue will be raised with representatives of the Russian Federation.