VILNIUS, Lithuania, Jan. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An AJC leadership delegation just concluded a visit to Lithuania.
The seven-member group, led by AJC Chief Executive Officer David Harris and including lay and staff leaders, had meetings with President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, and Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius.
The delegation also met with U.S. Ambassador Deborah McCarthy and Deputy Chief of Mission Howard Solomon, and Israeli Ambassador Amir Maimon.
Moreover, the group had the opportunity to speak with Japanese Ambassador Toyoei Shigeeda and Deputy Chief of Mission Shinichi Yamanaka, and members of the Sugihara Diplomats for Life Foundation, created to preserve the memory of Chiune Sugihara, the Lithuanian-based Japanese official who, on his own, issued thousands of life-saving visas to Jews during the Holocaust.
Among the principal topics discussed in Vilnius were: (a) marking 25 years of Western recognition of the restoration of Lithuanian independence; (b) the close and multi-faceted Lithuanian-U.S. relationship; (c) the robust Lithuanian-Israeli link; (d) the ongoing refugee flow into the European Union and its wider implications; and (e) the complex regional security situation facing Lithuania.
"We visited Lithuania to reaffirm our friendship with this important NATO ally, EU member state, and historic center of Jewish life, as we marked 25 years since AJC first called for U.S. recognition of Baltic independence," said Harris, who had previously visited Lithuania several times. "Our visit strengthened our steadfast support for this vibrant democracy and fascinating country. Moreover, we welcomed the leaders' clear expressions of solidarity with Israel and the Jewish community."
AJC engages regularly with Lithuanian diplomats across the U.S. and elsewhere, and the global Jewish advocacy organization meets with Lithuanian officials each year on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. And importantly, Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs, who has been honored by the Lithuanian government, has maintained frequent contact with the country's top officials for well over a decade, focused on matters of restitution and historical memory.
The visit also featured a festive dinner hosted by the Jewish Community of Lithuania. Attendees included: the ambassadors and senior diplomats from Azerbaijan, Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, The Netherlands, Turkey, and the U.S.; numerous government officials from the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Culture, and Education; alumni of AJC's Promoting Tolerance exchange program with the German-based Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, which focuses on promoting democratic values in Central Europe; and young Lithuanian Jewish leaders who have attended the AJC Global Forum.
At the dinner, AJC's Harris and Faina Kukliansky, Chair of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, jointly announced a new association agreement between the two organizations to promote cooperation. This agreement is the 32nd such accord between AJC and Jewish communities and student organizations around the world.
AJC had frequent contact, beginning in the late 1980s, with Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, a founder of Sajūdas, the Lithuanian independence movement. In 1991, AJC became the first major Jewish organization in the world to call for American recognition of the restoration of full sovereignty for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Later, AJC energetically supported the expansion of NATO membership to include the Baltic states, and welcomed the full integration of the three countries into the EU in 2004.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee