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Esper, Italian Counterpart Reaffirm Shared Goals

Jan. 31, 2020 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

The United States and Italy honored and deepened their long-standing defense relationship during talks between Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini.

The secretary welcomed his Italian counterpart to the Pentagon today, and after their discussions, the two defense leaders met with reporters from U.S. and Italian media.

Two men shake hands with one grasping the other’s arm..
Warm Welcome
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper welcomes Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini to the Pentagon, Jan. 31, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee, DOD
VIRIN: 200131-D-WA993-2147

"As a steadfast NATO ally, Italy hosts roughly 34,000 U.S. service members, civilians and dependents across five major bases," Esper said. "In doing so, Italy provides a vital role in our force projection into Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa."

The United States is grateful for Italy's leadership and contributions to coalition operations around the world, especially in the Middle East, the secretary said.

I am confident that our strong defense relationship will continue to grow as we advance our priorities on the basis of our shared values and interests."
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper

Through the defeat-ISIS coalition, the United States and Italy continue to work together to ensure a stable and sovereign Iraq and the lasting defeat of ISIS, he said.

"Elsewhere in the region, our two nations recognize the importance of restoring stability with Iran as we encourage them to behave like a normal country," Esper said. "And we will continue to discuss requirements of core missions in Afghanistan while we review the United States' force posture in that country."

The secretary thanked the defense minister for bolstering Italy's role as a critical, industrial defense partner to the United States, and for his strong advocacy of the F-35 joint strike fighter program.  

"As a level-2 partner in the program, your country has made important investments in research and development in the aircraft," he added.

Two men stand at the top of some steps at the Pentagon.
Pentagon Welcome
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper welcomes Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini with an enhanced honor cordon at the Pentagon, Jan. 31, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 200131-D-WA993-2165
Two men standing in front of flags shake hands.
Esper Greeting
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper shakes hands with Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini at the Pentagon, Jan. 31, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee
VIRIN: 200131-D-WA993-2167A

Ahead of next month's NATO's defense ministers meeting, Esper encouraged U.S. allies and partners to increase their contributions to alliance readiness, burden-sharing and to meet the pledge by NATO members to spend at least 2% of gross domestic product on defense, which he said will be crucial for a stronger NATO to be prepared for tomorrow's threats.  

"I look forward to continuing our discussions next month at NATO about the way forward for our collective security," Esper said. "I am confident that our strong defense relationship will continue to grow as we advance our priorities on the basis of our shared values and interests."

Speaking through a translator, Guerini thanked Esper for hosting him and said their meeting was constructive, touching on a wide span of issues that reflect the relationship between their nations. 

Several men sit at a conference table.
Table Talk
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper hosts a meeting with Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini at the Pentagon, Jan. 31, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee, DOD
VIRIN: 200131-D-WA993-2170

"Italy and the United States … have a strong interest in the development of our military capabilities," the defense minister said. "In the course of our meeting today, we have touched on different issues and shared analyses about Iraq, the situation in Libya, Afghanistan and the southern flank of the alliance."

Guerini said he reaffirmed Italy's commitment to international missions.

"We both believe, especially in this moment of crisis, in maintaining momentum to preserve the results achieved so far in the fight against terrorism and the training of the local security forces and in regional stabilization," he said.