Wednesday, Albania and Croatia officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance after their ambassadors to the U.S. filed their instruments of accession at a ceremony in Washington, reports say.
NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer welcomed the two countries into the military alliance, calling their entry a historic achievement. Albania and Croatia are respectively NATO's 27th and 28th members.
Today, Albania and Croatia have completed the accession process, and have joined the alliance as members, Hoop Scheffer said in a statement from NATO headquarters in Brussels while adding that as members they share the benefits and responsibilities of collective security.
A flag-raising ceremony marking the accession of Albania and Croatia will be held at NATO Headquarters in Brussels April 7.
Following Wednesday's ceremony at the U.S. state department, Croatia's ambassador said his country intended to assume its share of the security burden in Afghanistan, where NATO leads the 55,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
We are determined to take our share of responsibility for global peace and stability in places such as Afghanistan but also in other parts of the world, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said.
Her Albanian counterpart, Aleksander Sallabanda, said Albania was ready to take up all the challenges and responsibilities that participation in the alliance entails. In this context, we will work with responsibility and constructively with our partners to strengthen the... alliance to protect our common values.
Albania and Croatia already have troops in Afghanistan, where NATO forces are engaged in their largest and most complex mission fighting a resurgent Taliban-led insurgency.
Croatia's entry into the NATO had been delayed by a longstanding border dispute with Slovenia. The issue was resolved after Slovenia withdrew its veto Monday and filed documents with the United States, endorsing them as members.
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