The African Union (AU), Somalia and cooperation with Ethiopia were the focus of Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli’s two-day visit to Addis Ababa. This was his 3rd visit since last year, as testimony to the Italian Government’s renewed interest in the African continent. Pistelli represented Italy at the 24th ordinary session of the African Union’s Executive Council, whose topic this year was agriculture. “This is a subject close to Italy’s heart”, stated the Deputy Minister, “not least in the run-up to EXPO 2015, which will be dedicated to sustainable development under the motto ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’”.
During the AU meeting, the Deputy Foreign Minister had several bilateral meetings which enabled him to exchange views with African authorities on the situation in Somalia and developments in other regional crisis zones, most notably South Sudan and the Central African Republic. With the Foreign Minister of Equatorial Guinea he discussed the case of an Italian national, Berardi, who is being held in prison in that country.
Stabilisation of Somalia the focus for talks
During his meeting with the newly appointed Somali Foreign Minister, Abdirahman D. Beileh, Pistelli reiterated Italy’s support for the consolidation of the state in Somalia. He underscored the need for more effective political action by the new government, alongside the campaign against Al-Shabaab being conducted by AMISOM, the Africa Union Mission in Somalia.
The stabilisation of Somalia was also the focus of Pistelli’s talks with the Deputy President of the AU Commission; the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD, the Horn of Africa’s regional organisation whose partner-country forum is co-chaired by Italy); the EU’s Special Representative for the Horn of Africa; and the foreign ministers of the main countries of eastern Africa.
Bilateral cooperation with Ethiopia
Deputy Minister Pistelli also grasped the opportunity to strengthen bilateral cooperation between Italy and Ethiopia, which he described as “a true strategic partner for Italy in the Horn of Africa”. An agreement for renewed Italian support, with a contribution of 7 million euros, to help Ethiopia meet the Millennium Goals in the heath sector was signed with the country’s State Minister for Finance and Economic Development, Ahmed Shide.
Next on Pistelli’s agenda was the ceremony to launch the second stage of the “General Education Quality Improvement Project (GEQIP )”, which he attended with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. Italy is providing 7.5 million euros in support for GEQIP.