Croatian President and Armed Forces Commander-In-Chief Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has received Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and representatives of the Minnesota National Guard on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of defence cooperation between Croatia and the US as part of the State Partnership Program with Minnesota, Grabar-Kitarovic's office said on Saturday.

She said the two decades of excellent and fruitful cooperation spoke to the friendship of the Croatian and US armed forces as well as to the friendship between the two states.

She said that in the first days of its struggle for independence and freedom, Croatia had seen in the US a state on which it could rely. The bilateral cooperation between America and Croatia, established in 1995, was based on defence and military cooperation, she added.

Grabar-Kitarovic said that after the end of Croatia's Homeland War in 1995, the US contributed to Croatia's accession to NATO and the European Union, constantly supporting the strengthening of Croatia's international importance and reputation, including in Southeast Europe via the US-Adriatic Charter.

She underlined the importance of a joint cooperation programme which the US European Command set up in 1996, which enabled Croatia to use the State Partnership Program and other defence cooperation programmes aimed at reorganising the Croatian military and transforming its defence system to suit the needs of Partnership for Peace and then NATO membership.

Grabar-Kitarovic said that over the past 20 years, as part of joint activities with the Minnesota National Guard, over 200 military and civilian expert activities and humanitarian projects were carried out, with over 3,500 members of the Croatian military and Defence Ministry staff participating. 

She decorated Minnesota Governor Dayton for his contribution to Croatia's international reputation and position and to the development of relations with the US. She also decorated Brigadier Douglas Faherty and Colonel Ryan Fayrweather for their contributions to the development of military cooperation between the two countries.

The president said that by bestowing the decorations, she was showing how much Croatia appreciated the US friendship and support, adding, "we will continue to advance cooperation and strengthen the relations between our two friendly states."

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