Rome was the starting point for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s diplomatic tour of Europe to sign a number of long-term bilateral agreements. In the Cabinet Office at Palazzo Chigi, Karzai signed a bilateral agreement with Prime Minister Mario Monti that aims to strengthen political dialogue, security and police force cooperation as well as economic collaboration and the fight against drug trafficking.
Italy will not abandon Afghanistan, stated Monti. He explained that “the central message of today’s meeting is that Italy’s responsibility towards and partnership with Afghanistan will not be withdrawn when the military forces leave”. The Premier also expressed a special thanks “for the sacrifices made by the Italian soldiers and volunteers who have operated in Afghanistan”. He continued, “For over ten years now, Italy has stood at Afghanistan’s side in support of the country’s pacification and economic and social reconstruction. We also have over 4000 soldiers there as part of the ISAF contingent in the civil cooperation programme”. Turning to Afghanistan’s future, Monti explained that Italy “will support the Afghan Government in the delicate process of reconciliation with the armed insurgency, on condition that it rejects violence, recongises the Constitution and respects Afghanistan’s sovereignty”.
President Karzai invited Monti to visit his country soon. He also appealed to Italian companies to “come to my country to benefit from, and benefit, Afghanistan, especially by exploiting our mineral resources”. He declared that “not only does today’s agreement add to ten years of help and support, it also deepens the centuries-long relationship between our two peoples”. He noted that “thanks to the hard-earned money provided by Italian tax-payers, you have laid a milestone in the reconstruction of the Afghan people. Your support”, added Karzai, “is enabling us to rebuild our country”.
Before meeting Monti, President Karzai had a discussion with the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini. He expressed the Afghan people’s gratitude to Italy for the fact that “young men and women are ready to sacrifice their lives for our people”.
Yesterday afternoon, 25 January 2012, Karzai met the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi at the Quirinal Palace.
On Friday 27 January the Afghan President will leave Rome for Paris, where he will be signing a cooperation agreement with the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. The last leg of his trip will be London, to sign a similar agreement with the British premier, David Cameron.