YANKEE DOODLE: Kalvitis (pictured) met with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to discuss corruption, drug trafficking, and child abuse.
RIGA - A flurry of recent activity in Latvia's relations with the United States has further improved already extremely close ties between the two countries.
Recent meetings, ceremonies, and events have helped not only diplomatic relations, but also cooperation in legal, military and cultural spheres, officials from both countries say.
"Latvia has always been glad about the U.S., ...its powerful ally and partner, and all U.S. ambassadors to Latvia, have done significant work in building relations between our two countries," President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said in a ceremony in honor of U.S. Ambassador Catherine Todd-Bailey on July 2.
Todd-Bailey was granted the Order of Three Stars, Latvia's highest award.
The presidential press service noted that the award was being given to honor the personal contribution that the ambassador made in building cooperation between the countries.
As Vike-Freiberga, whose presidency will end on July 7, told the ambassador, "I must acknowledge that you have been special with your personal contribution, enthusiasm and commitment to your work. You have been a supporter and friend of Latvia who cares deeply for the welfare of the Latvian nation and the future of Latvia."
Vike-Freiberga also noted that the U.S. never recognized Latvia's integration into the former Soviet Union and has always understood Latvia's values of freedom and independence.
The head of state pointed out that U.S. President George W. Bush has visited Latvia twice in the past 18 months.
Todd-Bailey responded by praising Vike-Freiberga's accomplishments, holding her up as an example of what can be achieved through hard work. She also expressed gratitude for the award and praised the Latvian people's fierce independence.
Earlier on July 2, the president met with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to discuss improving cooperation in legal matters. She stressed that the countries would be well served to share experience in legal issues. They went on to discuss some of the problems raised in dealing with a variety of domestic and international legal issues.
On June 29, Defense Minister Atis Slakteris met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates during a visit to Washington to discuss cooperation in military affairs. During the meeting, Gates thanked the minister for support in Iraq, while the two discussed Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, NATO and Georgia.
"After the talks with my American colleague, I am sure that Latvian and American partnership will be continued successfully. Especially as it refers to security and defense," said Slakteris. Military cooperation between both countries is planned through several different programs, the most active of which are foreign military financing and military education and training.
In the cultural field, a Latvian song festival is planned for July 4 - 8 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The event is expected to draw hundreds of participants, including Integration Minister Oskars Kastens. More than 30 choirs with 500 singers are expected to participate in the festival.
At the closing ceremony of the song festival, Kastens will present gifts to the youngest and the oldest participants of the united choir.