VIRGINIA (September 3, 2021)—SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Minister Guerini, it’s a pleasure to welcome you back to the Pentagon. I fully appreciate the fact that you were here about a year ago but it’s great to see you again after the NATO Summit that we had in June.
Of course, you know from our last phone conversation that we’ve been extremely busy and focused on Afghanistan. So up front, I’d like to convey my deepest thanks to Italy for the close cooperation between our two countries to evacuate from Afghanistan tens of thousands of our citizens and partners and Afghans at special risk.
We are especially grateful that Italy is temporarily hosting Afghan evacuees at Naval Air Station Sigonella. It is a testament to the value of our long-term partnership. And we will continue to consult with Italy, our other NATO allies, our partners and the broader international community on the way forward in Afghanistan.
Now, Italy is one of our closest Allies and security partners, and you’ve been a gracious host to our forces in Europe and I’ve had the pleasure of serving alongside the Italian military over the course of my career in uniform. And I greatly respect the contributions and capabilities that Italy brings to our joint efforts.
Our cooperation in NATO, in the Middle East, in Africa, and for two decades in Afghanistan, is key to our longstanding partnership. Italy is an exporter of security and we appreciate Italy’s robust contributions to that cause, frequently in leadership and command roles.
Today, we’ll talk about how to address increasing threats from Russia and challenges from the People’s Republic of China. We’ll also spend some time discussing our cooperation in Africa and the Middle East, and we’re grateful for Italy’s contribution to peace and security there.
Closer to home, we’ll talk about implementing deliverables that we agreed upon at the NATO leaders summit in June. I’m also looking forward to exploring other areas where we can deepen our cooperation.
And Mr. Minister, I hope that your short visit to Washington will be a very productive one. I’m looking forward to our time together and to deepening our partnership on defense issues.
MINISTER OF DEFENSE LORENZO GUERINI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you, Secretary Austin. Thank you for this opportunity to meet you, which, for me, is very important to (inaudible) and further bring close the historical relations, the (inaudible) relations between the United States and Italy.
I’m very glad to have the opportunity to meet you in person after our NATO leader conferences. And let me also thank you for your call about the evacuation from Afghanistan.
And I would like, in the first place, to express my personal condolences for the loss of so many military — American military after the attack at Kabul airport on the 26th of August. Please accept my sympathy. That is also the sympathy of my government and of the whole Italian people.
Let me also express my gratitude for the work done by the American Armed Forces to secure Kabul airfield, making it possible to — to implement the airlift for the evacuation of Allied forces and of tens of thousands of Afghan cooperators.
And thank you again for the great cooperation of the American Armed Forces, which was absolutely decisive, and for the logistic support you offered to the evacuation of so many Afghan citizens. This would — this would have been impossible without the cooperation of the United States.
Thank you to the United States for the leadership and for the great job they have always done for international security and for the burden that they have assumed on this occasion. Thanks for your bravery. Thanks for your courage. Thanks for your ability.
Thank — you have quoted the cooperation we had with you in Sigonella for the evacuation of so many Afghan citizens, and of the presence of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen in Italy. This is further testimony of the great relationship, of the great cooperation, of the great friendship between Italy and the United States.
We have many things to talk about — the growing threats, cooperation in Africa, cooperation in the Middle East. We have an agenda full of common issues, including our relationship at work within NATO that we must and will implement.
Thank you for testifying the importance of our cooperation, of our relationship, of our friendship.
Source: Department of Defense