At President Carter's invitation, the President of the Council of Ministers of Italy, Francesco Cossiga, paid an official visit to Washington January 24-25. The Italian Prime Minister is also visiting the United States in his capacity as President of the Council of Ministers of the European Community for the current sixmonth term. The President offered a dinner at the White House in honor of Prime Minister Cossiga and had two meetings with him.
The President and the Prime Minister reviewed the exceptionally close relations between the two countries and stressed the solidarity existing between them; they also discussed a number of major international issues of common concern. These included the crises in Iran and Afghanistan, the relations between East and West, the situation in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the continuing efforts by both the United States and Italy to strengthen the Atlantic Alliance, the international economic situation, the development of the European Economic Community, of which Italy holds at the moment the Presidency, and a broad range of bilateral activities designed to intensify U.S.-Italian cooperation in all fields.
The President expressed his appreciation and that of the entire American people for Italy's assistance and support in connection with the international effort to secure the release of the American hostages held by Iran in defiance of the universally accepted standards of international law.
The President and the Prime Minister agreed that the principle of civilized behavior and rule of law is at stake. They believe that the continued detention, bent on blackmail, of American diplomatic personnel puts Iran in conflict not merely with the United States but with the entire world community, The President and the Prime Minister further agreed that all the hostages must be released unharmed. To this effect, they concur in the need for all appropriate means to convince the Iranian authorities to end the illegal captivity of U.S. citizens.
The two leaders discussed the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and agreed that this unacceptable violation of the sovereignty and independence of a previously non-aligned state, of international law, and of the United Nations Charter constitutes a grave threat to the peace not only of a vital region but of the entire world. They noted the international recognition of this threat—as expressed by a very large number of countries, including all the European Community States—in the United Nations General Assembly vote overwhelmingly condemning the Soviet action in Afghanistan. The two leaders firmly reiterated their demand that all Soviet troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan. The President and the Prime Minister expressed their determination to pursue, with like-minded nations, a series of coordinated actions to make very clear to the Soviet Union that it will not be allowed to commit such aggression with impunity.
The President and the Prime Minister reviewed the situation in the Mediterranean and the Middle East and agreed to press forward on the Camp David Accord and on the search for a comprehensive settlement, recognizing the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of each country of the area, and their rights to live within established and secure borders and taking into account the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
The President and the Prime Minister also discussed Atlantic Security issues and expressed their satisfaction with the recent NATO decision to modernize the Alliance's long-range theatre nuclear forces, in conjunction with the offer to Warsaw Pact countries to negotiate a balanced reduction of such weapons. They noted and they agreed that efforts to control and verify strategic nuclear weapons in the interest of world peace should not be abandoned.
The President and the Prime Minister also reviewed the difficulties of the present economic situation and agreed to cooperate closely in the efforts to reach common solutions to cope with them. They discussed the plans for the Venice Economic Summit, which Italy will host in June, with particular emphasis on pursuing effective policies on macro-economics, energy, trade and monetary questions, as well as new initiatives for developing the North-South dialogue to which both sides attribute great importance.
In emphasizing his solidarity with the Prime Minister and with the Italian people in the fight against terrorism, the President expressed admiration for the Prime Minister's leadership and his commitment to democratic tradition. He further expressed his appreciation for the efforts made by the Italian Government to cope with the difficult economic situation, in order to achieve a greater stability and solve the most pressing problem of our time, the shortage of energy, and assure the necessary rate of economic growth.
To further the close bilateral relationship between the United States and Italy and enhance democratic ties on both sides of the Atlantic, the two leaders agreed to intensify cooperation in a variety of fields. Concrete steps in support of such cooperation will encompass the visit of a high-level investment mission to Italy for the purpose of expanding American investment in southern Italy; increased bilateral collaboration in the fields of energy research and development; a comprehensive program in agriculture which will help make Italy more self-sufficient in meat production and enlarge U.S. feed grain exports; expanded cultural and educational exchange activity between Italy and the United States, including instructional television for the reciprocal teaching of each country's language; and the prevention of drug abuse.
The President told the Prime Minister he looked forward with particular pleasure to the visit he will be making to Rome in June and the continuation of his bilateral talks with the Italian leadership directly preceding the Venice Economic Summit.Note: On January 24, the White House released the following announcement.
In addition to the President, those attending the meeting with Italian Prime Minister Cossiga in the Cabinet Room this morning were:
THE VICE PRESIDENT
SECRETARY OF STATE VANCE
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
DAVID AARON, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
AMBASSADOR HENRY OWEN
AMBASSADOR RICHARD GARDNER
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE ALLEN HOLMES
JAMES RENTSCHLER, NSC STAFF MEMBER
In addition to Prime Minister Cossiga, those attending the meeting on the Italian side were:
MINISTER SERGIO BERLINGUER, DIPLOMATIC ADVISOR
DR. LUIGI ZANDA LOY, CHIEF, PRESS OFFICE
MINISTER MAURIZIO BUCCI, DIRECTOR GENERAL FOR ECONOMIC AFFAIRS, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
MINISTER CESARE GNOLI, VICE DIRECTOR GENERAL FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
COUNSELOR LUDOVICO ORTONA, OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER'S DIPLOMATIC ADVISOR
AMBASSADOR PAOLO PANSA CEDRONIO