Palazzo del Quirinale 09/01/2007

Press release following the meeting between the President of the Italian Republic and the President of the Republic of Turkey


(Rome, 9 January 2007)

I particularly welcomed President Sezer's visit to Rome, which is taking place a little more than a year after my predecessor's visit to Turkey and a few days before the scheduled visit to Turkey by Prime Minister Prodi, confirming the excellent relations existing between Turkey and Italy.

On the political level, our two countries have created a solid relationship based on several noteworthy instruments - the Protocol for Reinforced Cooperation, the Cooperation Agreement between the two countries' Parliaments and the Civil Societies Dialogue Forum.

In economic terms, Italy is today Turkey's third-biggest trade partner, with exchanges worth more than 15 billion dollars in 2006. Over 500 Italian companies are active in Turkey with major investments in key sectors such as banks, energy, high technology and services.

Turkey and Italy also maintain excellent relations in the cultural field, as evidenced by the interest shown in Turkey for the language and culture of Italy, along with the ongoing scientific and technological cooperation between our universities and our joint efforts to promote and preserve Turkey's extraordinary historical and artistic heritage. The exhibition which will be inaugurated tomorrow at the Quirinale Palace represents a succinct example of that heritage.

Turkey and Italy share the same views on the principal international issues. One example is our joint commitment to NATO, strengthened today by our common efforts to ensure that the Alliance remains in a position to respond to the challenges posed by the complexities of the modern world. Another example is our work inside the United Nations in order to achieve the reforms needed to make the Organization more democratic, representative and effective.

Turkey and Italy share a common sensibility, both considering dialogue between different cultures as a source of mutual growth and enrichment. That is why our countries are convinced that it is essential to encourage collaboration between the two shores of the Mediterranean so as to promote successfully economic growth and social progress and to safeguard democracy and human rights - elements which are all closely connected and interdependent.
In that context, our countries are taking part side by side in the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon, to which both contribute significantly. I am sure that collaboration between our troops in the framework of an agreed multilateral political initiative can play a crucial role in preserving stability in Lebanon as well as in safeguarding the country's full sovereignty and independence.

Similarly, Turkey and Italy share a vision of the peace process in the Middle East in which renewed direct dialogue between the parties involved represents a prerequisite for an equitable, just and enduring solution, based on guarantees of security for Israel and the creation of an independent Palestinian State within definite and recognized borders.

Italy has always been a convinced supporter of Turkey's accession process to the European Union, certain that Ankara's entry in the European Union will provide an essential contribution to enlarging and consolidating that common space of democracy - based on respect for people's dignity, for fundamental liberties and the rule of law - in which European unity expressed itself.

The positive prosecution of the accession negotiations between the European Union and Turkey are therefore of strategic interest to the Union. It represents a stimulus for Ankara to consolidate the reforms on which it has already embarked and to implement all the measures needed to fully comply with EU rules and regulations, so as to meet all the conditions required for membership. They also provide a further motive for Europe to set about reforming and strengthening its own institutions, so that today's and tomorrow's broader Union can rise fully to the challenges and missions awaiting it.

I am glad to see that a continuing identity of views between Turkey and Italy emerged on all of the issues discussed during my talks with President Sezer. I should therefore like to renew my welcome to him in Rome in the conviction that his visit to Italy will contribute to further strengthening the old friendship between our countries.