US Vice President Praises Italy as ‘Important’ US Ally

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 4:30 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has praised Italy as an important partner of the United States during talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in Rome.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Napolitano also discussed the situation in Libya during Wednesday's meeting at the Quirinale presidential palace. The United States and Italy both have participated in two months of NATO airstrikes on Libyan military targets as part of a campaign to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Vice President Biden is visiting the Italian capital to represent the United States at Italy's celebration of the 150th anniversary of its unification on Thursday. The White House says he will hold a trilateral lunch meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on the sidelines of the event. The agenda for the talks was not disclosed.

Mr. Biden also held talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Rome Wednesday. Russia's Interfax news agency quotes a Georgian official in Tbilisi as saying Mr. Saakashvili and Mr. Biden discussed Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization. Georgia is a WTO member and has the right to veto any new entrant.

Tbilisi has negotiated the issue with Moscow in the past. Relations between the neighboring states have been strained since they fought a five-day war in 2008 for control and influence over the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In a separate development, Abkhaz officials said Wednesday the Pacific Ocean archipelago of Vanuatu has become the fifth nation to recognize Abkhazia as independent. The others include Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the Pacific island of Nauru.

Abkhazia's Foreign Ministry praised Vanuatu for taking the step despite the U.S. and western Europe's refusal to grant recognition to the Georgian region.

Georgian parliament speaker Davit Bakradze played down the significance of Vanuatu's move, predicting that it will not change the international attitude toward Abkhazia. Most nations view Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Georgian territories illegally occupied by Russian troops.