Italy, Russia boost strategic partnership with cultural exchange year

09:12, February 17, 2011      

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Visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi inaugurate "the Year of Russian culture and Russian language in Italy and the Year of Italian culture and Italian language in Russia" in Rome, Italy, Feb. 16, 2011. (Xinhua/Wang Qingqin)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday kicked-off official opening of the Russian Culture Year in Italy and the Italian Culture Year in Russia.

"Italy and Russia are two cultural world powers. We have excellent political, economic and commercial relations and I hope the celebrations of our respective cultures will further strengthen our friendship," Berlusconi said at a press conference.

Over 500 events are planned in 200 Italian cities for the celebration of the Russian Culture Year, which will see Hermitage treasures for the first time exposed outside national boundaries, while Italy plans to send to Russia famous Renaissance masterpieces.

Berlusconi stressed the "important economic reasons" behind the Italy-Russia partnership, mainly linked to energy issues and mutual interests.

"Russia is the world's greatest oil and gas export country and needs the European Union (EU). But on the other hand also Europe and Italy also need Russian gas and petrol," said Berlusconi.

The two leaders discussed joint projects concerning the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline to Europe through the Black Sea, considered the winning asset of the Italy-Russia energetic cooperation.

The two countries also signed a defense agreement that will allow Italy to supply its troops in Afghanistan by flying soldiers and weapons over Russian territory.

Source: Xinhua
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