Lithuania surprised at Estonian air policing statement to US secretary of state

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Estonian FlagMinister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius says he was surprised by his Estonian counterpart’s recent statement to the new US secretary of state on Tallinn’s aspiration to move part of the Baltic air policing mission.

According to Linkevicius, Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet’s comments at a meeting of the Baltic ministers and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Wednesday did not receive response.

“Such a statement was a surprise for me. I consider this as the Estonians’ plans. The way of presentation is slightly surprising but they seem to have chosen this way,” Linkevicius told BNS on Thursday. “Everybody says we should first discuss these things among ourselves. By the way, there were no comments on the issue. The Estonian colleague voiced the idea as one of the aspects but there was no response to it,” the Lithuanian foreign minister added.

Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday Paet said during the meeting Kerry on Wednesday that Estonia wishes to see one rotation of the NATO air policing mission each year operate out of the Amari air base in Estonia from 2015 onwards.

Meanwhile Lithuania wants its airbase in Siauliai to remain the main and permanent location for fighter jets of NATO partners, saying that rotation would dramatically increase mission costs.

During his visit to Lithuania earlier this month, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO would not get involved in Vilnius-Tallinn discussions and “the Baltic states should decide themselves on how to organize this part of the air policing.”

His comments were echoed by US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder in a recent interview to BNS when he said “the particulars of who and from where one does this mission are the kinds of operational issues that get discussed among militaries.”

Lithuania and other Baltic states don’t have air policing assets, and therefore the function of rapid response air forces has been carried out by troops from other NATO member countries on three-month rotation. 14 forces from the Alliance’s countries have already served in the mission in Lithuania.

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