WASHINGTON, May 29 (UPI) -- U.S. defense officials expressed gratitude to the Tunisian defense minister over the high-level of direct military cooperation, a Pentagon spokesman said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met Tunisian Defense Minister Rachid Sabbagh in Washington as part of a regular bilateral military meeting.
The BBC reported this week that Tunisian authorities ordered two-year suspended prison sentences to 20 people connected to a September attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. The embassy was the target of Islamic furor following the release in 2012 of a video made in the United States seen as denigrating to the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.
"Deputy Secretary Carter expressed gratitude for the continued support Tunisia has provided to the U.S. Embassy in Tunis in the aftermath of the Sept. 14, 2012, attack and for the continued cooperation between both countries on a wide range of mutual security issues," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.
Hagel emphasized his commitment to the bilateral defense relationship, Little said.
A protest suicide in Tunisia in 2011 sparked a revolution that spread through the Middle East and North Africa. Tunisians elected a new government, though the political and security situation remains fragile.
Hundreds of alleged members of militant Islamic group Ansar al-Sharia were arrested by police following clashes with security forces last week.