Panetta, Portuguese defense minister discuss common challenges

Feb. 28, 2012

By Department of Defense

Keeping heroes active
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta escorts Portuguese Defense Minister Jose Pedro Aguiar-Branco through an honor cordon into the Pentagon, Feb. 27, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta met with Portuguese Defense Minister Jose Pedro Aguiar-Branco here Feb. 27 to discuss a range of common challenges, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

“Secretary Panetta thanked Minister Aguiar-Branco for Portugal's steadfast support in Afghanistan and other NATO missions,” Little added. “He also stressed Portugal's indispensible role as a strategic ally.”

The military leaders discussed enhancing and deepening the U.S.-Portuguese defense relationship, and Panetta confirmed that the United States will remain at Lajes Field in the Azores. The secretary said the United States will consult with Portugal on the modalities of the continued U.S. force posture at Lajes, the Little said.

“Secretary Panetta thanked Minister Aguiar-Branco for the warm hospitality U.S. troops have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy on Portuguese soil,” he added.

Looking forward, he said, Panetta and Aguiar-Branco will work together with other alliance defense leaders to prepare for the NATO Chicago summit in May, building on what was accomplished at the 2010 summit in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

Panetta and Aguiar-Branco directed their staffs to develop options for enhancing the U.S.-Portuguese defense relationship, Little said, and will follow up in April at a NATO meeting in Brussels. The defense leaders also agreed to have their staffs meet at bilateral political-military talks scheduled here for June, he said.

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