Russia and Italy sign series of accords

Mar 15, 2007 01:00 AM

Russian and Italian political and business leaders signed a series of accords strengthening their economic ties, including deals for building an airliner and for developing nuclear power projects and a railway system. The talks, including visiting President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, were held in the Adriatic port city of Bari.
"This is the best proof of the strategic partnership between Italy and Russia," Prodi said.

Putin was set to travel to Athens later for the signing of a long-delayed agreement to build a pipeline from Bulgaria to Greece.
Prodi said Rome and Moscow shared the vision of a multilateral approach to world crises, including in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan, and said the two leaders also discussed Russia's human rights record, amid allegations of human rights violations under Putin's tenure.

Russia and Italy see eye to eye on the situation in Iran, Iraq and Serbia's Kosovo province in that they want a peaceful solution for the crises there, Putin said.
"What unites us is a desire to find a peaceful solution for these problems," Putin said.
Prodi said the talks touched on issues of freedom of press, expression and human rights.

Italian power supplier Enel said it signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency on developing electricity and nuclear power projects in Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. Other agreements included one between Italy's defence company, Finmeccanica, and Russian Railways to develop a regional train along the Black Sea coast joining the cities of Tuapse and Adler; and one for the joint construction and marketing of a medium-range civilian plane known as the Superjet 100.
The Moscow-based conglomerate Sistema has shown interest in buying a minority stake in Telecom Italia from Italy's Pirelli. Finmeccanica's Alenia unit and Russia's biggest warplane maker, Sukhoi, will sign a deal to build Superjet 100 regional jets jointly over 20 years.
Prodi stressed the importance of the Sukhoi deal. "It is the last opportunity for Italy and Russia to become leading players on the civil aircraft market," he said.

Italy is Russia's third-largest commercial trading partner, after Germany and China, with Russian-Italian trade in 2006 totalling more than EUR 21 bn ($ 27.68 bn). Putin and Prodi said in a statement that they wanted talks between Moscow and the European Union on a new strategic partnership agreement, blocked over a Russian ban on Polish meat, to start as soon as possible.

Officials from both countries also agreed to open a northern Italian branch, in Ferrara, of the State Hermitage Museum, which is located in St Petersburg. Putin, who met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, was received with military honours in Bari, where about 1,500 residents lined the streets around the central Piazza della Liberta to greet the Russian leader.
During his stay in Bari, Putin also visited a church in the city that is reputed to hold the remains of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop of Asia Minor revered by both the Western and Orthodox churches, and signed a visitors' book.
"Let's hope this visit results in something good, like jobs for young people," said student Antonio Buttiglione, 20, who waited for three hours in hopes of getting a glimpse of Putin -- without luck.

Source: The Moscow Times
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