by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy
Prime Minister Conte,
Thank you so much for your warm welcome, and congratulations on your mandate.
I really appreciate this opportunity to meet so soon after you took office.
Italy is a highly valued NATO Ally.
You play an essential role in our shared security by contributing to many different missions and operations.
In Afghanistan, you help train local forces in their fight against international terrorism.
And I was really impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the Italian troops I met in Herat. I welcome the ceasefire in Afghanistan, due to start tomorrow. I call on the Taliban to fully respect the ceasefire.
And I hope it can be a first step on the road to lasting peace.
Italy also leads NATO’s operation in Kosovo, and helps secure the skies over Montenegro.
You have deployed troops to Latvia as part of our multinational battlegroup. And you lead NATO’s high readiness joint task Force.
Your contributions are in the interest of Italy’s security and they are important for securing the whole NATO Alliance.
Everything that NATO does is defensive, proportionate and in line with our international obligations. NATO is as you said committed to our dual-track approach to Russia: strong defence and dialogue. We are making progress on both tracks.
We just had an excellent meeting where we discussed our preparations for the NATO Summit next month. Where the fight against terrorism will be a key topic. Italy is at the forefront of NATO’s adaptation to threats from the south.
You host NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples, which now includes a Hub for the South. I expect this Hub will be declared fully operational by the time of the Summit in July. To better monitor regional threats, like terrorism and failing states. And help coordinate our efforts in the region.
Italy will also host NATO’s cutting-edge surveillance drones in Sicily. Which will help us monitor and respond to emerging challenges.
By tackling all these problems at source, we can help prevent new crises and conflicts.
And more people fleeing to Italy’s shores. So what we do is in the interest of the citizens of Italy. This includes our mission in Afghanistan, our participation in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and our work to strengthen partners. At our Summit, we will take the next step, and launch a new training mission in Iraq. To help the Iraqis stabilise their country. And prevent ISIS from coming back.
We also plan to step up our support for other partners in the Middle East and North Africa, like Jordan and Tunisia. Because in the fight against terrorism, training local forces is one of our best tools.
NATO is contributing to alleviate the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe in other ways too.
NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian works closely with the EU’s Operation Sophia in the Central Mediterranean. And our deployment in the Aegean Sea helps implement Turkey’s agreement with the EU to curb illegal migration.
The Summit will also focus on our progress toward fairer burden-sharing within the Alliance. All Allies have now started to increase defence spending. Allies are also investing more in capabilities.
And stepping up their contributions to NATO missions.
So I want to thank Italy for your continued efforts and your many contributions to our collective defence and shared security.
Prime Minister, so once again thank you again for an excellent meeting and for Italy’s major contributions to the Alliance.
I look forward to working with you and I thank you so much for this very good meeting so soon after you took office.
Thank you so much.