Panetta Travels to Rome to Meet With Italian Leaders
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
ROME, Jan. 15, 2013 Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived here today on the third leg of his tour of European capitals.
“I guess it goes without saying that it has a lot of tremendous personal meaning for me, since I'm the son of Italian immigrants,” the secretary said yesterday to reporters traveling with him.
“The U.S.-Italian defense relationship is very deep and very enduring,” he added. “And I am very grateful for the strong support that Italy has provided to U.S. troops that are stationed there.”
The United States has key military bases in Italy, Panetta said.
“They've been extremely important to our efforts throughout that region, and we are very grateful for [the Italians’] support,” he said. “Those bases enhance our collective security of the alliance and are critical to our ability to be able to respond to any crisis in the region.”
Panetta said Italy is a strong partner nation in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, where Italians have a lead role in Regional Command West.
“They've played a very important role in the ongoing transition in that region,” he said. “And I'll have an opportunity again to pay tribute to the sacrifices that Italy has made over the last decade with a visit to their war memorial in Rome.”
Panetta also is scheduled for a slate of meetings with Italian leaders, including President Giorgio Napolitano, Prime Minister Mario Monti, Defense Minister Giampaolo di Paola and Foreign Affairs Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant' Agata.
Italy is the third country Panetta has visited this week; earlier stops included Lisbon, Portugal, and Spain’s capital of Madrid. His next stop will be in London, later this week.