Palazzo del Quirinale 05/09/2007

Press Statement by the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano after discussions with the President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres


Quirinal Palace, 5 September 2007

It was a particular pleasure for me to receive the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, with whom I have enjoyed a long relationship of personal friendship and profound respect, on his visit to the Quirinal today. It is highly significant - and for this I would like to thank him most sincerely - that he wished his first visit abroad as Head of State to be to Italy, to Rome.
In his frequent visits over many years, President Peres has always been welcomed in Italy with great respect and admiration, and I am sure that the discussions he will be having over the coming days with the Italian government and with the political, business and cultural leaders will confirm the very close bond that exists between our countries and peoples, a relationship that is deeply felt and endorsed by the vast majority of the political forces and the Italian people.
Bilateral relations between Italy and Israel are excellent and I hope they can improve still further. I am particularly pleased, among other things, to notice the continuing interest in the Italian language shown in Israel.
In our discussions, which will continue at lunch, we discussed the prospects for the peace process in the Middle East, a cause to which Simon Peres has devoted himself for decades with great coherence in the most widely differing political situations in his own country and in the region.
Italy is very closely monitoring the current developments, as confirmed by the discussions between the Minister of Foreign Affairs over the past few days with the Palestinian and Egyptian leaders, and with Israel's leaders at this very moment.
Contacts between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abu Mazen - and this has been confirmed by President Peres - are encouraging, and I therefore trust that all the issues on the agenda can be addressed, starting with Israel's security, looking ahead to the establishment of an independent and secure Palestinian State, built on solid institutional and economic foundations.
Italy and Europe have a part to play in this. We have been asked in particular to look carefully at the contribution that the Italian business community can make to improving the prospects for peace in the Middle East.
We welcome the initiative taken by President Bush to host an international meeting in the United States in November, which is intended to broaden the peace process to take on a regional dimension, with a significant participation by the Arab countries.
If, as we hope it will, the Washington meeting ends with a framework agreement setting out the issues to be addressed and the solutions to be pursued, it will considerably heighten the authority of the Israeli Prime Minister and of the Palestinian President and government, and can help to curb the influence of the extremists and tone down the destructive stances that are hampering the peace process.
I would like to briefly mention two other issues that we raised during our talks.
First of all, the question of the military mission in Lebanon, which is wholeheartedly supported by Italian public opinion and all the Italian political parties: it is a mission of whose importance we are utterly convinced, and we are committed to pursuing it coherently.
We also expressed wholly converging views on the absolute need to halt the risk of nuclear proliferation, and it was President Peres himself who recalled that the international community has succeeded in removing this risk in various countries over the past few years. This must be the common aim of both our countries, now and in the foreseeable future.
Let me conclude by saying that we feel very close to the Israeli people on the human plane, and we sympathise with the terrible sufferings of the families whose sons serving in the military have been abducted, and who have not received any news about them. Elementary reasons of humanity demand that the plight of these sons of Israel be clarified and a solution to this problem rapidly found.