Vilnius, Jan 24 (IANS) NATO would establish international headquarters in Lithuania, together with five other Eastern and Central European countries, the Lithuanian ministry of defence announced in a statement released Friday.
"We have managed to achieve what we have been aiming at the NATO Military Committee agreed to establish multinational headquarters in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria," Chief of Defence of Lithuania, Maj Gen Jonas Vytautas Zukas, was quoted by Xinhua as saying after returning from a NATO Military Committee meeting in Brussels.
The headquarters should be founded as early as this year, the ministry said.
In the words of Zukas, the NATO headquarters in Lithuania would be not only a measure of deterrence but also a "capacity to provide command and control for allied forces in Lithuania in case of necessity, thus increasing our defence."
The establishment of international NATO staff in Lithuania would contribute both to the countries and regional security, said Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius, in an interview with local broadcaster.
"I assess this decision very positively, it is sending one more signal to us, first of all, Lithuanian citizens, but also for the whole Baltic region, that our security will be ensured," Butkevicius said.
In the NATO chain of command, the new headquarters will report to the Multinational Corps Northeast in Szczecin, Poland. Lithuania and the other half by NATO allies will provide half of the staff, the ministry said in the statement.