Israel, Italy declare commitment to preventing nuclear-armed Iran
The leaders of Israel and Italy Thursday evening proclaimed their shared goal of preventing Iran from acquiring an atom bomb, Xinhua reported.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, accompanied by an entourage of senior ministers, landed in Israel earlier in the day for a one- day visit and a meeting with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu. His visit was highlighted by the signing of several cooperation agreements.
"We discussed the great economic and security challenges, and reiterated the importance of our position that Iran be prevented from achieving nuclear weapons, and that sanctions and international pressure must be applied to this end," Netanyahu said at a joint press conference in Jerusalem.
Without naming Iran, the Italian leader, on his second visit to Israel in six months, said Europe's security is intertwined with Israel's security.
"We absolutely reject threats to regional stability and denial of the Holocaust," Monti said, "Any threat to Israel is unacceptable."
Local pundits and analysts have noted the increasingly warm security ties between Israel and Italy, with several joint air combat maneuvers that were held in Sardinia and Israel in recent years, as well as the signing of major defense contracts.
In February, Israeli Defense Ministry announced an offset deal worth near 1 billion U.S. dollars to procure 30 Italian-made M346 advanced jet trainers for the Israel Air Force, and Italy agreed to purchase Israeli weapon systems worth a similar amount.
Earlier on Thursday, Netanyahu and Monti signed a joint statement that emphasizes their determination to expand security and economic collaboration, according to a statement sent to Xinhua.
The Italian ministers and their Israeli counterparts inked several cooperation agreements on Thursday, including in hi-tech, aid to developing countries, culture, education and science, among others, the statement said.
Monti lavished praise on Netanyahu, saying that "we are full of admiration for Israel's achievements in recent years under your leadership. As a start-up nation, Israel has become a model for the world and an inspiration for cooperation between states."
Netanyahu noted that Italy is one of Israel's European trading partners and the joint statement provides "additional infrastructure" for bolstering the already-strong ties.