The Secretary General of the Farnesina, Michele Valensise, today ended a visit to Afghanistan that took him to Kabul and Herat City, in the west. In Herat, he signed an aid credit agreement for the modernisation of the city’s airport.
Italy’s civil and military commitment praised
In Kabul, Ambassador Valensise met the National Security Adviser, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the Chair of the High Peace Council, Salahuddin Rabbani; and the Deputy Foreign Minister, Ershad Ahmadi. Summing up his mission, the Secretary General reiterated that “in our discussions, the Afghans confirmed how much they appreciate Italy’s civil and military commitment in their country. Afghanistan is going through a delicate transition in the run-up to the presidential elections in April 2014 and the withdrawal of the international forces at the end of the year”.
Afghans want to work together post-2014
Turning to “post-2014”, Valensise added that “the Afghans are very keen to continue working fruitfully with Italy. Stabilisation is not just in the interest of Afghanistan itself but of the entire region, which, with greater security, could benefit in terms of economic and social development”.
Italian commitment for development of Herat
Turning to the second leg of his trip, to Herat City, Valensise commented on his meeting with Brigadier General Michele Pellegrino and the Italian contingent responsible for Regional Command West (RC-West). He also mentioned his meeting with the Afghan finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal. “I came here to sign an Italian aid credit agreement envisaging 29.3 billion euros to develop Herat airport – an initiative that was welcomed with gratitude. It is a sign of Italy’s continuing commitment to the development of Herat Province, one of the most significant regions for the Afghan economy”.
“The initiative”, Valensise continued, “should be set against the wider framework of Italian-Afghan cooperation, which in recent months alone has brought funding for Herat City’s by-pass road (25 million euros in gift aid) and for a stretch of the Herat-Kabul motorway (93 billion in aid credit)”.
Civil transition under way too
The aid credit for Herat’s airport will be used, as Valensise explained, “to refurbish the existing building, buy new instruments for the control tower and for communication and navigation systems, and for training Afghan staff. All in collaboration with Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, which should be able, in 2015, to operate the airport in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards. This shows that the military transition is being accompanied by a civil transition too. A transition”, added Valensise, “which Italy is supporting, in this case, in the airport sector”.