By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay, Oct. 7, 2012 – In advance of the 10th Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas to occur here tomorrow, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta held bilateral meetings with counterparts from the region.
During one of those meetings, the secretary and Uruguayan Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro agreed to update their defense cooperation agreement, adopted in 1953, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement.
The two defense leaders, whose nations have a longstanding and close military-to-military relationship, also agreed that updating the document will modernize the framework for future U.S.-Uruguayan defense cooperation.
“The United States views Uruguay as a key defense partner in South America,” Little said.
During the meeting with Huidobro, the U.S. defense secretary thanked Uruguay for its contributions to international peacekeeping operations, and the two leaders discussed increasing regional coordination on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the press secretary said.
This morning, Panetta began a rainy Sunday on the peninsula of Punta del Este by attending a mass delivered in Spanish at the small, quaint La Candelaria church, a blue and white building with a gabled roof and bell tower.
Later at the Conrad Hotel, the venue for tomorrow’s conference, the secretary took photographs with staff members of the Montevideo-based U.S. Embassy.
In the afternoon, in addition to the meeting with Huidobro, Panetta held bilateral discussions with El Salvadorian Defense Minister Jose Atilio Benitez Parada, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno, and Mexican Secretary of National Defense Gen. Guillermo Galvan Galvan.
Panetta also had a brief meeting with Canadian Minister of National Defense Peter MacKay, and met this evening with Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim.
Tomorrow, Panetta leaves Uruguay to travel to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, for a NATO Defense Ministerial meeting this week.