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Bonino in Paris for Friends of Syria Group, then tour in Africa. Foreign Minister will then fly to Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast (ANSA)

First, a stopover in Paris for the meeting of the 11 countries making up the Friends of Syria Group. And then Foreign Minister Emma Bonino will be continuing her tour of “a changing Africa” with a visit to Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.

After her recent mission to Ghana and Senegal, Minister Bonino will be arriving this evening in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, where tomorrow (13 January 2014) her diary includes meetings with government representatives, including her colleague Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara and the Minister for Culture and Tourism, Peter Bayuku Konteh.

Sierra Leone has made encouraging progress in its democratisation process following the civil war that ended in 2002. The elections in 2012, which were conducted without incident and were judged by observers to be positive, saw Ernest Bai Koroma confirmed as Head of State. The Sierra Leonean government is focusing on the mining, agriculture and tourism sectors to kick-start the economy. Minister Bonino’s mission to the country will also be an opportunity to express her satisfaction with the efforts made to apply the moratorium on the death penalty. Her key appointment for Monday will be the conference on this subject organised by the Hands Off Cain pressure group with the support of the Norwegian government.

Bilateral relations

Turning to bilateral relations, Italy is one of the countries providing financial support to the peace forces engaged in the countries of the region, to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), and to the World Bank programme for Disarmament, Demobilization, and the Reintegration of former combatants. A bilateral debt cancellation agreement signed in 2007 freed up resources amounting to 40.5 million euros. The principal investment opportunities in Sierra Leone are in the mining, construction, agri-food, fishing and tourism sectors.

Italian Development Cooperation has also been engaged in significant initiatives, especially in the health and education sectors. In the infrastructure sector, 2010 saw the completion of the hydro-electric power station in Bumbuna, our Development Cooperation’s most significant project in the country.

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast will be Minister Bonino’s next African destination, with a visit on 13-14 January. The last visit by a representative of the Italian Government (in the person of Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Alfredo Mantica) dates from 2003. Emma Bonino’s visit will therefore be an opportunity to revitalise bilateral relations.

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