VILNIUS, Lithuania - NATO member Lithuania and its non-NATO neighbor Belarus on Oct. 27 inked their first agreement on military cooperation, Lithuania's defense ministry said.
"We have taken a historic step. For the first time, Lithuania and Belarus have signed a cooperation agreement" in the military domain, Lithuanian Defense Minister Rasa Jukneviciene said in a news release.
The agreement was signed during a visit to the Lithuanian capital by Belarusian Defense Minister Yuri Zhadobin.
The neighbors, whose common border stretches about 375 miles, will cooperate in the areas of military personnel training, airspace surveillance and military medicine.
Although the former Soviet states have been cooperating on military matters since 2005, this was the first time they signed an agreement.
"We live in the same region ... and we have many common interests," Jukneviciene said.
Since 2004, Lithuania's embassy in the Belarusian capital Minsk also serves as the NATO mission in Belarus. In early 2011, the French embassy is to take over the NATO duties.
Both Soviet republics prior to the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania and Belarus chose different paths. While Lithuania joined the EU and NATO in 2004, Belarus forged close ties with Russia that have recently become strained.