Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz departed Italy today after a two-day state visit that has included a historic meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, the first ever between a Saudi King and a Pope.
Yesterday, King Abdullah met with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi for talks on bilateral cooperation and regional and international developments, in particular the situation in Lebanon. The two leaders discussed the Middle East peace process, and stressed the critical role of the US leading up to this month’s peace summit in Annapolis. They also noted the importance of dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue in a way that prevents weapons proliferation and escalating tensions in the region.
During the meeting, King Abdullah and Prime Minister Prodi witnessed the signing of a number of agreements including a comprehensive security agreement and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) on vocational training and technical education, health and higher education.
Also yesterday, King Abdullah visited the Municipality of Rome and attended a meeting of the Saudi-Italian Business Council with Prime Minister Prodi.
In the evening, Prime Minister Prodi hosted a state banquet in honor of his royal guest. In remarks on the occasion, King Abdullah expressed the hope that his visit would boost cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Italy, particularly in the area of trade exchange. The King also remarked that both countries have pursued moderate foreign policies that aim to preserve peace and fight terrorism.
For his part, Prodi highlighted the importance of Saudi-Italian cooperation in facing challenges such as the Palestinian situation, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Lebanon, terrorism, Iraq and the Iranian nuclear issue. The prime minister also voiced opposition to any military action against Iran, noting that it would destabilize the region.
The King’s visit to Italy was the second leg of a 13-day tour that began with a visit to Britain. He will also visit Germany and Turkey before returning to Saudi Arabia.