Official visit of President Serzh Sargsyan to the Republic of Italy
President Serzh Sargsyan, who has made an official visit to the Italian Republic, on April 09 held a meeting with Italy’s Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti.
At the meeting, the interlocutors discussed issues pertaining to the broadening of collaboration in the frame of the agreement on bilateral defense cooperation between the two counties.
The RA President and the Italian defense minister attached importance to the fact that the defense cooperation between Armenia and Italy is not limited to bilateral format and also embraces the peace-keeping sphere: the first international mission that Armenia joined in 2004, was the NATO peace-keeping mission in Kosovo which was followed by the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
President Serzh Sargsyan noted that also owing to Mrs. Pinotti’s direct efforts, since last November, 32 Armenians have been fulfilling a peace-keeping mission in Lebanon under the leadership of UN peacekeeping forces under Italian command (maintenance of security of Shama military base), which, according to the President, can be considered as a successful start of Armenian-Italian cooperation.
Placing importance also on the sphere of education on the Armenian-Italian cooperation agenda, President Serzh Sargsyan praised Italy for the fact of giving student grants to Armenian servicemen for many years thanks to which Armenian officers are able to receive qualified education in the country. The President mentioned Artashes Danielyan, an alumnus of the Italian Military Academy, as an example of successful cooperation. He is the commander of our peacekeeping forces in Lebanon.
The interlocutors exchanged views on issues pertaining to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and security and stability in the South Caucasian region.
Following the meeting, President Serzh Sargsyan and Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti took part in a video-conference held in the defense ministry with the Armenian and Italian soldiers fulfilling a joint peacekeeping mission in Lebanon under the auspices of the UN.
Cordially welcoming the officers and soldiers, President Serzh Sargsyan said the following: “Dear soldiers, officers, I am glad to start my official visit to Italy with this unique meeting with you which means that defense cooperation has its peculiar place in Armenian-Italian relations. I think most of you remember that 11 years ago, we, guided by a sense of collective responsibility in the security sphere, began to participate in peacekeeping missions. The first was in Kosovo, and taking into account the successful attempt, we continued it in Iraq, Afghanistan and now, with your immediate participation, in Lebanon. I would like to clearly stress the importance of the Lebanese mission to us: Lebanon not only in the very distant historical past, but also now is a friendly country for us. We have to return a favor to Lebanese, though we can never compensate for what they did for our sisters and brothers who had escaped from the genocide: they not only gave our compatriots an opportunity to live in their country, but also to preserve their indemnity and national dignity. I am proud and a bit excited with the fact that today the destiny afforded this opportunity to our peacekeeping forces and that it is you who have directly taken this opportunity.
I am also proud that Italian soldiers, who are famous internationally for their good qualities, are decent officers and are satisfied with your service. I was happy that just now the defense minister praised your service. Thank you.
We take pride in you in the homeland and ask you once again to remember that by fulfilling the given mission in Lebanon, you are making your contribution to the maintenance of peace not only in our region, but also in the entire world, and this is a very crucial mission.
I would like to emphasize once more – your homeland takes pride in you. I wish you to be courageous, resourceful and brave. Good Service.”
As part of his official visit to the Italian Republic, President Serzh Sargsyan on April 09 visited the Vittoriano Museum Complex, laid a wreath at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier after which he held a meeting with Presidnet Sergio Mattarella of the Italian Republic.
Attaching importance to his meeting with Sergio Mattarella shortly after his taking the office of President of Italy, the RA President expressed the hope that it will contribute to the further broadening of mutual dialogue and the Armenian-Italian agenda. President Serzh Sargsyan expressed confidence that his busy official visit will give new impetus to the friendly relationship between Armenia and Italy.
The interlocutors expressed satisfaction with the fact that Armenian-Italian diplomatic relations, which have a bit more than a 20-year history, have been developing in the spirit of friendship and mutual understanding, marked by numerous crucial achievements. The two countries’ Presidents said that it was not an accident, underscoring that Armenian-Italian close ties are rooted in the close historical connections between the two peoples and the shared set of values.
The Presidents stressed that in recent years the cooperation between Armenia and Italy has considerably intensified both in bilateral format and in the frame of the European Union, making progress in almost all spheres of mutual interest.
In the context of ensuring sustainable development for bilateral cooperation, the parties emphasized that there is a comprehensive bilateral legal framework between the two countries which embraces more than 3 dozen legal documents.
According to the RA President, the current visit to friendly Italy in such a crucial period for the Armenian people when Armenian authorities and all Armenians are commemorating the Armenian Genocide Centennial is the best testimony of the importance our country attaches to its bilateral ties with Italy.
President Serzh Sargsyan expressed his thanks to the Italian people who saved, provide refuge to and gave new hope to the Armenian expatriates who had escaped from the Armenian Genocide - the last of them lived in Italy till the previous year. The President also expressed his gratitude to Italy for continuedly giving preference to universal values over short-lived interests, emphasizing, particularly, the unanimous recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Italian Chamber of Deputies about 15 years ago.
The Presidents also discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. The Italian President noted that Italy is partial to a settlement of this problem exclusively through peaceful means in the frame of the OSCE Minsk Group based on the principles of peaceful conflict resolution, territorial integrity and the right to self-determination of peoples.
The Italian President expressed satisfaction with the fact that after joining the EEU, Armenia continues to take steps aimed at developing relations with the European Union and added that the membership also opens up new horizons for the development of Armenia-Italy relations.
At the meeting, the parties also stressed the importance of promoting inter-parliamentary cooperation between Armenia and Italy, as well as reflected upon Armenian-Italian trade and economic ties and Italy’s possible investments in Armenia. The two countries’ Presidents expressed satisfaction with the fact that in recent years a number of business forums and roundtables have been held and reciprocal visits of businessmen have frequently taken place. The Presidents agreed that the current achievements are inspiring but in no way reflect the true cooperation potential, and a great deal of work still needs to be done to fully utilize it.
At the meeting, the parties placed great value on promoting cooperation in tourism. In this context, they stressed the need to restore regular direct flights between Armenia and Italy – from Yerevan to Rome or other cities.
The Armenian and Italian Presidents agreed that taking into consideration the current potential in the areas of trade and economy, education, science, culture and in other areas, they could take steps to establish an Armenian-Italian intergovernmental commission which would further coordinate activities in the mentioned areas.
Talking about decentralized cooperation, the interlocutors expressed satisfaction with the fact there is also mutually beneficial cooperation between some local self-government bodies of Armenia and Italy whose start dates back to 1967 when Yerevan and Carrara were declared twin cities. This rank has been gradually filling up with new cities and regions. According to the Presidents, regular visits of Italy’s provincial and municipal delegations contribute to the establishment and broadening of direct ties and economic cooperation between regions.
The two countries’ Presidents also exchanged views on issues pertaining to the cooperation between Armenia and the European Union, the collaboration of Armenia and Italy in the frame of international organizations, as well as on the situation in the Middle East.
On behalf of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, an official dinner was held in honor of President Serzh Sargsyan who has paid an official visit to the Italian Republic.
President Serzh Sargsyan on April 09 held meetings with Laura Boldrini, President of the Chamber of Deputies of Italy, and Pietro Grasso, President of the Senate of the Republic.
Serzh Sargsyan thanked for the warm reception and said that it is a great honor for him to be in the wonderful city of Rome which is not only the capital of a friendly state, but also is a key regional center.
The RA President attached importance to meetings with heads of the legislature as part of his foreign visits, because, according to him, it is difficult to overestimate the role that the legislature plays in the development of interstate relations and in creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and mutual understanding. Noting that Armenia’s National Assembly has established a good tradition of friendly ties with parliaments of numerous European countries, the Armenian President stressed that it is high time to elevate the Armenian-Italian inter-parliamentary cooperation to a new level and that there is every prerequisite for that. According to the interlocutors, inter-parliamentary ties have long occupied their firm place on the agenda of Armenian-Italian multifaceted relations, the testimony of which is the existence of friendship groups in the two countries parliaments.
Serzh Sargsyan expressed satisfaction with his meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella which had taken place in an atmosphere of mutual trust and added that during the meeting they had attached great value to furthering achievements in regular political dialogue and in the cooperation areas of economy, culture and science, as well as stressed the importance of deepening inter-parliamentary ties.
During the RA President’s meetings with Laura Boldrini, President of the Chamber of Deputies of Italy, and Pietro Grasso, President of the Senate of the Republic, the parties exchanged views on issues pertaining to the promotion of cooperation between Armenia and the European Union (EU). Serzh Sargsyan underscored that the relationship with the EU continues to be one of Armenia’s key foreign policy priorities which is based, first of all, on a shared set of values. In that context, the President attached weight to Italy’s role in the promotion of comprehensive cooperation between Armenia and the EU. The Armenian President mentioned that Armenia highly values its cooperation with the EU in such areas as democracy, the rule of law, protection of fundamental freedoms, as well as the joint projects in the field of sustainable development and good governance.
At the meeting, the parties reflected upon the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and the challenges and problems in the South Caucasian region.
President Serzh Sargsyan on April 09 held a meeting with José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN).
The President noted that Armenia highly appreciates the UN FAO’s multifaceted programs aimed at the development of our economy and attached importance to including Armenia in regional and ongoing donor programs.
According to Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s effective cooperation with the FAO and its membership in the organization has given the country an opportunity, through financing, to accomplish a number of key projects aimed at the agrarian development of the RA economy.
The Armenian President noted that the Armenian side is ready to support every initiative of UN FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, including reforms implemented inside the organization. The President assured that Armenia carries on making consistent efforts with the FAO, thereby bringing its contribution to ensuring food security in the world.
At the meeting, the interlocutors also touched upon the cooperation prospects of the Eurasian Economic Union and the FAO. In this context, the parties were glad to state that the EEU-FAO Collaboration Action Plan has already been signed and expressed confidence that it will give new impetus to promotion of cooperation between the RA and the FAO.
Lastly, President Serzh Sargsyan wished the 39th session of the FAO conference to be held this June, as well as the upcoming elections of FAO Director-General to be successful.
As part of his official visit to the Italian Republic, on the evening of April 9 President Serzh Sargsyan had a supper with Italian parliamentarians during which he delivered an address.
President Serzh Sargsyan on April 10 held a meeting with Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino.
The Armenian President thanked for the warm reception and noted that every time it is with pleasure that he visits Rome – the Eternal City – where one can witness a rich and inimitable historical-cultural heritage at every step. Serzh Sargsyan said it is symbolic that Armenian culture, too, occupies its unique place in that heritage panorama which, according to him, is no accident because the Armenian and Italian peoples have a rich tradition of historical ties and cooperation. The President noted that it is with pleasure that he recalls his previous visit to Italy when he had a chance to present an old Armenian cross-stone to Rome, as a token of eternal friendship between Armenia and Italy.
Serzh Sargsyan expressed confidence that Yerevan and Rome have great potential for cooperation and expressed the hope that in the near future, legal bases will be established to further develop and deepen ties between the two capitals. The President expressed the hope that the Rome mayor will bring his personal contribution towards that goal. The Armenian President invited Mayor Ignazio Marino to visit Yerevan.
The interlocutors agreed that the decentralized cooperation, which has been expanding year after year, lies at the core of interstate relations. Taking into account the increasing role of decentralized cooperation and public diplomacy in the world, the interlocutors expressed confidence that the intensification of ties between the two capitals will add a new dimension to bilateral ties.
Touching upon the commemorative events marking the Armenian Genocide Centennial, President Serzh Sargsyan noted that he is aware that like in many corners of the world, numerous events devoted to the Armenian Genocide Centennial are being held in Rome and are yet to be held till the end of the year. The President praised the unanimous recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the City Council of Rome in 2000. According to the President, Armenia regards the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by more than 60 Italian provincial and municipal councils both as loyalty to universal values and as a manifestation of solidarity with the Armenian people. In this context, Serzh Sargsyan said it is no accident that there is a memorial plaque honoring the innocent victims of the Armenian Mets Eghern installed in the Eternal City.
At the meeting, the RA President and the Rome mayor also reflected upon the development of humanitarian ties between Armenia and Italy, emphasizing that both countries have a rich cultural history, and it is natural that this area is an important component of Armenian-Italian relations.
The parties also touched upon activities carried of the Armenian community in Italy. The RA President noted, in particular, that owing to the sincere attitude of Italian authorities and the Italian people, throughout history Armenians have managed to achieve great success on the Italian land in the areas of science, arts, sports, business, thereby making their modest contribution to the prosperity of Italy.
Following his meeting with the Rome mayor, President Serzh Sargsyan visited the Vittoriano Museum Complex where he watched the exhibition titled “Armenia: People of the Ark” which displays Armenia’s 3000-year-old history and a number of materials documenting Armenians’ presence in Italy. This exhibition gave a first start to the events marking the Armenian Genocide Centennial in Italy which also contain a special section on the testimonies of that crime.
Today, the RA President also gave an interview to the Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily newspaper, responding to questions related to, inter alia, the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the Centennial commemorative events and to Armenian-Italian and Armenia-European Union relations.
President Serzh Sargsyan, who has paid an official visit to the Italian Republic, on April 11 attended an ecclesiastical ceremony at Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church in Naples, performed by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and Cardinal Sepe and an opening and consecration ceremony of a memorial to the Armenian Genocide – a duplicate of one of Jugha cross-stones. The Armenian President delivered a speech on the occasion of the cross-stone opening ceremony and the return of Saint Gregory the Illuminator’s relics.
During the event, President Serzh Sargsyan awarded a group of Armenian and Italian public figures high state decorations of the Republic of Armenia. The decorations were awarded for making a significant contribution to the cause of Armenian Genocide recognition, the strengthening of bilateral ties between Armenia and the Holy See, the recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s independence, the reinforcement of homeland-diaspora ties, the propagation of spiritual values, the deepening of Armenian-Italian cultural and friendly ties, as well as for carrying out active socio-political activities and making a contribution to the areas of economy and the preservation of Armenian national identity.
The Armenian President was awarded the Order of Naples City which was delivered to Serzh Sargsyan by Mayor Luigi de Magistris.