WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2005 – Ukraine joined a regional European security organization today at a meeting being held here and hosted by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The Dec. 5-6 Southeastern European Defense Ministerial marks the first time the organization, founded in 1996, has held its annual meeting in the United States, Defense Department officials said. Ukraine joined SEDM members Italy, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia.
Albanian Deputy Defense Minister Besnik Baraj, SEDM chairman, thanked Rumsfeld for hosting the meetings. New SEDM members, like Ukraine, will assist the organization to meet future security challenges, Baraj said.
During his opening remarks, Rumsfeld said the annual meetings enable SEDM-member defense ministers to discuss mutual security concerns such as counter-proliferation and border security issues. Rumsfeld also congratulated Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko for his country's admission into SEDM.
"Membership in this body has almost doubled since its inception some nine years ago," Rumsfeld said. That's a good sign, he said, as more countries cooperate to confront the threat of global terrorism.
"The importance of this conference of cooperation is clear as new threats emerge against the aspirations of the security of free people," Rumsfeld said.
About 90 nations have banded together to fight terrorism, Rumsfeld said, noting the SEDM meetings symbolize that partnership of nations.
Hrysenko said his country, which has troops serving in Iraq, is honored to join SEDM, and he volunteered to host next year's meeting.
The United States helped to develop SEDM about a decade ago to promote peace and stability and enhance regional security cooperation in southeastern Europe, DoD officials said. Some SEDM members, like Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, as well as the United States, also are NATO members.
Moldova and Ukraine had been SEDM conference observers in years past, officials said. Special guests at this year's meeting are Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro. Moldova is attending this year's meeting as an observer.
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