TALLINN - At the Estonian government's press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that she attempted to persuade commander of the defense forces, Gen. Martin Herem, to continue in his position.
Kallas expressed regret that Herem is stepping down before the end of his extended term of office.
"Herem has demonstrated steadfast determination, a clear vision, and courage in facing tough decisions. He has served in very challenging times," Kallas said.
The prime minister expressed her gratitude to Herem for his work.
The new commander of the Estonian defense forces will be picked from among six to seven candidates, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur said on the "Telehommik" morning program of Kanal 2 television channel on Thursday.
Pevkur likewise said that he is sad to see Herem leave.
"I wished he would have remained in office until the end of his extended term, and I tried to persuade him several times to continue, however, everyone has the right to make their own choices," Pevkur said, adding that Herem was very well suited for his position.
According to Pevkur, Herem had already indicated at the end of last year that he wanted to step back from his current post.
"I suppose he saw that now is a good time for it," the defense minister said, noting, however, that the departure of any good officer leaves a gap for Estonia.
Pevkur mentioned that a dignified way is being sought for the general to continue, although Herem has said that he initially wants to take time off and be with his family.
"One thing I am sure of -- knowing Herem, he will definitely not just stay at home, even if he is in the reserve. His mind and thoughts are always working on how to better protect Estonia," he said.
The defense minister expressed hope that there will be no delay in announcing the name of the new chief of defense, and it should be done on Independence Day, Feb. 24, at the latest.
"The candidates for this position logically emerge from within the defense forces," Pevkur said, adding that the upper echelons of the defense forces are relatively limited in number due to the hierarchical nature of military ranks, and the new defense chief will be chosen from among six to seven candidates.
Pevkur added that he intends to consult with both the national defense committee of the Riigikogu and the president before presenting his candidate to the government.