Lietuva in brief - 2009-04-02

  • 2009-04-02
Lithuania still sees participation in the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan as a top priority, but the tense economic situation may interfere with seeing all schemes through as previously planned. Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviciene said the aim is to attract as many foreign partners as possible to join Lithuania's initiatives in the province. There are about 120 Lithuanian soldiers serving on NATO's ISAF mission in Afghanistan, all of whom serve on the PRT in Ghor. Another 20 Lithuanian soldiers serving under ISAF's command are stationed elsewhere. An SOU made up of Lithuanian troops is serving together with allies in an ISAF operation in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. In addition to Lithuanian troops and civilians, the Ghor PRT includes soldiers from Denmark, Croatia, the United States and Georgia. Both the number of soldiers and exact location of deployment are kept confidential. The number of soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan's south is expected to be at around 40 SOU troops.

President Valdas Adamkus received a congratulatory letter from U.S. President Barack Obama, in which the U.S. leader congratulated the people of Lithuania on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Lithuania's accession to NATO. "The United States is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Lithuania as allies and friends as we build on NATO's achievements in enhancing security and prosperity for our nations," Lithuania's presidential press service quoted the U.S. president's letter. It was through persistence and the accomplishment of challenging political, economic, and defense reforms that Lithuania succeeded in attaining NATO membership, President Obama underlined in the letter, adding that Lithuania's contribution to NATO operations, and its commitment to the values which define the Alliance, are a testament to NATO's ongoing transformation and evidence of the enduring benefits of NATO's enlargement.

Norway's Salhus Shipping AS will be holding talks with the pirates that hijacked its Bow Asir tanker, where one Lithuanian is held hostage along with the rest of the crew. The decision to entrust the negotiations to the company in charge of the tanker came in a meeting that included representatives of interested countries and of the Norwegian Shipowners Association. "The most important news announced in this meeting was that all crew members are alright. They've been given the possibility to get in touch with their close ones," the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry told BNS. The ship had 27 crewmembers on board, with 19 of them from the Philippines, five Russians and one Polish, Norwegian and Lithuanian.

The Permanent Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (PA) is holding a session in Vilnius in which it intends to appoint a new vice-president of the assembly. The post was vacated after Rasa Jukneviciene took up the post as Lithuania's Defense Minister. The participants of the Vilnius session will also address NATO PA relations with Russia and Belarus. The activities of the Russian delegation at the assembly were restricted following the country's aggression against Georgia in August 2008, and the status of Belarus as an associated member was canceled in 1997 due to undemocratic activities of its President Alexander Lukashenko.