Italy, Russia pave way for closer military cooperation

10:03, May 21, 2010      

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Italy and Russia on Thursday held the first summit featuring both foreign and defense ministers of the two countries, to pave the way for a closer military cooperation.

The talks followed an innovative "2+2" format. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini discussed with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov while Italy's Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa met with Russian equivalent Anatoly Serdyukov at Villa Madama, a prestigious state palace.

The bilateral meetings focused on the promotion of Italy- Russian collaboration on several global issues including terrorism, Iran's nuclear program, Afghanistan's peacekeeping mission, and the exchange of military information and personnel.

"I'm very satisfied of this first pioneering summit between our two countries and I look forward to further increasing Italy's strategic partnership with Russia," Frattini told a joint press conference after the meeting.

The talks also focused on Russian, European Union (EU) and NATO joint security matters. "This summit has further brought to light a common interest of NATO, the EU and Russia to cooperate in consolidating the Euro-Atlantic defense system and we must all work towards this end. Russia is an indispensable partner in global security," Frattini said.

Lavrov stressed that Moscow's goal was to "pave way for the strengthening of European safety," directly linked to the empowerment of the NATO-Russia Council.

Lavrov also praised Italy for its central role in pushing forward the EU-Russia relations and the NATO-Russia Council dialogue on important security matters.

"I appreciate Italy's mediation efforts. Today we face the same challenges and priorities," he said.

On the upcoming Russia-EU summit in Rostov on May 31, both Frattini and Lavrov expressed their optimism on lifting visa restrictions for travelers between Russia and the EU and reaching a framework agreement on joint crisis management in countries including Georgia and the Balkan countries.

The two ministers outlined their common position regarding Iran 's nuclear program. "We ask Tehran to negotiate and give the international community adequate guarantees that its nuclear enrichment plan is just for civil ends," said Frattini.

Lavrov observed that Russia "will take into consideration the UN Security Council's decision regarding eventual sanctions to Iran and listen to all partners in a spirit of collaboration."

He said Russia was ready to collaborate with the EU and NATO in Afghanistan in a bid to enhance global cooperation in the fight against opium drug-trafficking which nourishes terrorism.

Lavrov also announced that Moscow will soon allow the transit of Italian troops across Russian territory to and from Afghanistan.

The two defense ministers, La Russa and Serdyukov, discussed the modernization and preparation of the military forces to the new global challenges, and agreed on bilateral exchange of visits of top officials and academic students.

"Whereas economic and political ties are strong, our two countries now intend to fill the military cooperation gap that has lasted for too long," said La Russa.

Italy was among the leading sponsors of the creation of the NATO-Russia Council.

Source: Xinhua


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