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Italy is key US partner in Mediterranean, Trump tells Gentiloni

by Marco Valsania

Italy Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and US President Donald Trump affirmed a strong Italy-United States bilateral relationship during their meeting yesterday, saying that it is essential in order to confront the threats posed by instability in the Mediterranean region and by terrorism.

The two leaders discussed a host of issues during a one hour meeting at the White House: from Libya to Syria, from migration to Isis, from Russia to Nato.

Gentiloni said that the partnership can be crucial for the future of the region. He offered three priorities: dealing better with mass migration by strengthening the European compact on the issue; stabilizing countries such as Libya where an increased effort is required; and fighting terrorism and Daesh, another name for Isis.

Gentiloni, who in the morning also spoke at the think tank Csis, said that this could be the year that Daesh might be defeated as a group that controls territory. On Libya, that is also at the center of the migration problem, he warned that any division pr partition of the country must be avoided because it would lead to increased risks for the whole area.

The Italian prime minister also talked about Syria with Trump. He approved of the US recent military action against Assad, saying it was in response to the use of chemical weapons. But repeated that a solution to the crisis can only be a political one, sought through renewed negotiations under the UN umbrella. Russia, he added, should play a constructive role. With Moscow he added that the allies must have a united and determined position, but that they must also engage and avoid isolating the country.

Trump for his part payed homage to Italy, its key role in combating terrorism and as a major trade partner. The US President also said that a strong Europe is essential to America. He avoided however new commitments on Libya and insisted on partners paying their dues for the common defense under Nato agreements, that is on meeting the target of military spending reaching 2% of Gdp. Gentiloni answered that Italy intends to keep the promise to meet such a goal.

Gentiloni today is in Ottawa to finish preparing for the G7 summit he will host in Taormina, Sicily, in May with a meeting with Canadian leader Justin Trudeau. He said that the coming G7 is particularly important for showing unity of intents because of the arrival on it of new leaders, such as Trump and the next President of France. Both Gentiloni and Trump expressed solidarity with the people and the government of France for the terrorist attack in Paris, that happened just moments before their joint press conference at the White House.


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