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Naval Forces Europe, 6th Fleet Strengthen Croatia Ties

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080331-10
Release Date: 3/31/2008 1:10:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Holmes, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

SPLIT, Croatia (NNS) -- In support of a cooperative strategy to strengthen ties with Croatia, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. 6th Fleet recently completed a major engagement with this Adriatic Sea coastal country.

Activities included a March 24-29 port visit to Split by USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) and an on board reception for Croatian dignitaries and military leaders.

During the reception Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe praised Croatia for their dedicated interaction with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

"The close cooperation between NATO and Croatia will continue, particularly with my staff in Naples who is committed to assisting you in your goals of Euro-Atlantic integration," said Fitzgerald.

Reception co-host Robert Bradtke, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, said during formal remarks that Croatia has been a valuable Partnership for Peace (PfP) member since May 2000.

As part of the PfP, approximately 200 Croatian soldiers, diplomats and military police officers currently work across three different regions of Afghanistan. Croatia is also in the process of significantly increasing its contribution of troops available for deployment.

During a March 27 interview with Croatia's state-run television broadcast station, President George W. Bush said he "strongly supports" Croatia joining NATO.

More than 150 distinguished guests attended the 6th Fleet flagship's March 28 evening reception, including General Josip Lucic, Chief of General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces and Vice Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet.

Although it was Mount Whitney's first visit to Split, dozens of U.S. ships have made recent port visits to Croatia.

"Spilt is a fantastic city for a U.S. Navy port visit," said Capt. O.P. Honors, Mount Whitney's commanding officer. "We have enjoyed unprecedented hospitality from the local community and especially our Croatian Navy counterparts. I foresee Mount Whitney making a return visit in the near future."

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