Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi inaugurated in Rome on Monday a "new era" for bilateral ties based on boosting strategic cooperation in all sectors, Xinhua reported.
Celebrating the second anniversary of the Libya-Italy Treaty of Friendship in Rome's largest military station, the two leaders jointly launched a "strategic partnership" between their countries.
At the ceremony, Berlusconi said the agreement signed in 2008 represented a turning point in bilateral ties, "a historical moment that paved the way for a new life, healing once and for all the past wounds of colonialism."
The treaty was the outcome of 40 years of hard-spun diplomatic negotiations between Italy and Libya. It officially put an end to the long-lasting colonial dispute by granting material compensation to Libya and creating a strategic economic and immigration-control partnership. Last year, Berlusconi formally apologized for all the misdeeds of the Italian colonization in Libya.
"We look at the future with optimism and we will work hard on both sides for the benefit of our people," said Berlusconi.
"We must all rejoice for the concrete results so far obtained by our historical agreement aimed at advancing the development of the entire Mediterranean," he said, adding that "a painful page of history had been turned over" but will never be forgotten.
Citing successes of the treaty, the premier noted that more than 21 Italian firms are bidding for a government project to build a "desert highway" across Libya, as part of the compensation for the Libyan people.
Other concrete results of the agreement, according to Berlusconi, included a student exchange program which brought 100 young Libyans to Perugia of Italy, the launch of an Italy-Libya University, a museum network across the Mediterranean, a joint social organization aimed at promoting sports, an Italy-Libya institutional website, and a series of professional courses for Libyan diplomats organized by the Italian Foreign Ministry.
"Our bilateral treaty can become a model of democracy in the globalized world by setting an example of how two countries can solve their differences and become friends for the benefit of the entire humanity," said Berlusconi, referring to the bilateral cooperation in cracking down on illegal sea immigration, which had drastically curbed landings of refugees on Italian shores.
In a 40-minute speech, Gaddafi said that "many Italian governments have worked on this treaty but only Berlusconi has concretized it by acknowledging the past faults of his country."
Meanwhile, he called for more help from the European Union (EU) to fund the fight against illegal immigration, and expressed his wish that Italy would become a "bridge" between Libya and Europe.