“It’s time for a new start”. This was Deputy Minister Pistelli’s comment during his visit to Asmara – the first visit to Eritrea by a member of the government since 1997, with the mission by the President of the Republic at that time, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. “I am here today to bear witness to our determination to revitalise our bilateral relations and try to foster Eritrea’s full reinstatement as a responsible actor and key member of the international community in the stabilisation of this region”.
Deputy Minister Pistelli took part in long working sessions with Eritrea’s foreign minister, Saleh, and the President’s adviser, Ghebreab. He then met President Isaias himself for a long and in-depth discussion to analyse the various bilateral and international issues of common interest to the two countries.
“I found my Eritrean hosts both well-informed and keen to engage”, observed Pistelli at the end of his meetings. “If we manage to resume our bilateral collaboration and to forget any recriminations, which belong to the history of our relationship and must no longer influence it the present, then the potential for both Italy and Eritrea is enormous, and all to our mutual advantage”.
Italy is Eritrea’s second commercial partner, but trade remains negligible, given Asmara’s isolation. One goal of Pistelli’s visit was to encourage the Eritreans to engage in a constructive dialogue with the countries of the region with a view to contributing to the stabilisation of the Horn of Africa, establishing development policies, and signing up to a shared commitment to protect human rights and to combat terrorism and trans-national crime.
“I came here to enable Italy and Eritrea to embark on the road to cooperation in all sectors of mutual interest, given that many of the security and migration problems that affect Italy actually originate in this part of the region. To achieve that cooperation, I wanted to clarify, in person, to President Isaias here in Asmara that Italy is ready to show a new willingness to engage and to rekindle that mutual trust that has been lacking between our two countries for many, too many, decades”.