U.S., Italian Defense Leaders Reaffirm Partnership

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta met today with Ital­ian Defense Min­is­ter Ignazio La Rus­sa to fur­ther their rela­tion­ship as NATO part­ners while dis­cussing impor­tant issues both coun­tries face.

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta, right, escorts Ital­ian Defense Min­is­ter Ignazio La Rus­sa, through an hon­or cor­don at the Pen­ta­gon, Oct. 17, 2011. The lead­ers met for a work­ing lunch to dis­cuss defense issues of mutu­al inter­est.
DOD pho­to by R.D. Ward
Click to enlarge

“It was my hon­or to be able to wel­come Min­is­ter La Rus­sa from Italy here,” Panet­ta said to the Pen­ta­gon reporters and Ital­ian media. “As a fel­low Ital­ian, it’s nice to have anoth­er Ital­ian vis­it in that capac­i­ty.” The sec­re­tary not­ed he met with La Rus­sa in Brus­sels at a recent NATO defense min­is­ters con­fer­ence. “I think we enjoy a very warm friend­ship,” he added, call­ing Italy one of the Unit­ed States’ most impor­tant part­ners and allies.

“I think it’s obvi­ous by virtue of the mis­sions that they’ve helped us with time and time again,” Panet­ta not­ed. “They have a large pres­ence in [Region­al Com­mand West] in Afghanistan. They’ve done a remark­able job there. They con­tin­ue to pro­vide secu­ri­ty and train­ing in that part of Afghanistan, and we view them as one of our NATO part­ners that has real­ly assumed respon­si­bil­i­ty, hope­ful­ly, for ensur­ing that Afghanistan heads in the right direc­tion.”

The defense sec­re­tary also expressed his grat­i­tude to Italy for the sac­ri­fices it has made.

“We know that lives have been lost, and we share in the agony of those lost lives,” he said. La Rus­sa, speak­ing through an inter­preter, shared his appre­ci­a­tion for the defense sec­re­tary and his efforts to con­tin­ue build­ing their part­ner­ship.

“My most heart­felt thanks to Sec­re­tary Panet­ta,” he said. “We have con­firmed how close our rela­tion­ship is also in sev­er­al oth­er fields. We want to strength­en this col­lab­o­ra­tion in both the polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary field, and, if pos­si­ble, … we want to take a pos­i­tive approach to sev­er­al prob­lems on the table � name­ly Libya and Afghanistan.”

Panet­ta cit­ed Italy’s sup­port to NATO mis­sions in Libya.

“We real­ly appre­ci­ate the mis­sion that they’re con­duct­ing in Libya,” he said. “Frankly, if it were not for the Ital­ians, we real­ly don’t feel that we could have com­plet­ed this mis­sion. They pro­vid­ed impor­tant bases � Aviano, Sigonel­la, and Naples and else­where. As a result of that, NATO was able to con­duct impor­tant mis­sions into Libya.

“So Italy has been, again, a very good part­ner with regards to that effort as well,” he added.

La Rus­sa said anoth­er issue he and Panet­ta dis­cussed was the mis­sion in Afghanistan.

“We have con­sid­ered putting an end to our mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Afghanistan by 2014, also, based on the con­di­tions in the field,” he said. “But we’ve [also] exam­ined the pos­si­bil­i­ty to con­tin­ue our pres­ence in the area under oth­er forms � name­ly train­ing and oth­er forms of non­mil­i­tary sup­port.”

Panet­ta said he expressed his “great­est thanks” to Italy for the sup­port it pro­vid­ed dur­ing a recent vis­it to the coun­try.

“Bot­tom line here is Italy is a good part­ner, good friend and a good ally,” he said. “We con­tin­ue to work togeth­er to try to make sure that we can advance the com­mon caus­es that we’re involved with.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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