Italy and Germany insist on role in "reconstructing" Afghanistan
Italy and Germany see their role in Afghanistan as more than that of "donors of troops," but one in which they will also contribute to that country's "civil reconstruction," officials said Monday, DPA reported.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle made the remarks at a joint news conference following their meeting in Rome.
The two, who said they were in "full agreement," also mentioned Italy and Germany's relations with Russia over energy, rejecting criticism that they risk becoming too dependent on Moscow for gas supplies.
Referring to the scheduled January 28 international conference in London on Afghanistan, Westerwelle said it "must also be based on a civil perspective and must not be seen purely as a troop-deployment conference."
Military involvement and security issues "are a means and not an end, our soldiers are there to assist with (Afghanistan's) reconstruction - a presence which is not destined to last forever," Frattini said.
Responding to US President Barack Obama's recent appeal, Rome and Berlin recently agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan despite the lack of support among many Italians and Germans for their countries' military involvement in the troubled Asian state.
Turning to energy matters, the two foreign ministers defended Germany and Italy's partnership with Russia over the South Stream and North Stream gas pipeline projects.
Frattini said these initiatives were not in conflict with European Union and US-supported projects, such as the Nabucco pipeline from the Caspian Sea and Turkey that is aimed at diversifying natural gas supplies and reducing dependency on Russia.
"We have a fundamental interest in a strategic partnership with Russia," Westerwelle said, adding that such a partnership "is loyal, and also based on ethical values."