|Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (R) and visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai attend a press conference after signing a cooperation agreement in Rome, Italy, Jan. 26, 2012. Monti and Karzai signed a cooperation agreement after their meeting on Thursday, making Italy the first Western country to sign with Afghanistan an international agreement of long-term cooperation and partnership. (Xinhua/Wang Qingqin)
ROME, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Italy will continue to provide support for Afghanistan, Prime Minister Mario Monti said here on Thursday after signing a cooperation agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"Italy has been present in Afghanistan for more than 10 years and has now more than 4,000 troops there working in the peacemaking and construction process,"Monti said.
He noted that Italy was the first country in the world to sign with Afghanistan an international agreement of long-term cooperation and partnership, adding that the agreement would constitute the basis for future cooperation between the two countries.
Monti said Rome "will not abandon Afghanistan," as its support would continue even after the withdrawal of its troops at the end of their mission in 2014.
"President Karzai can rely on Italy ...for the full success of the stabilization process in his country. In this respect, we will provide our support to the Afghan government also on the occasion of the NATO summit which will be held in Chicago next May,"Monti said.
"Our commitment will be less in terms of security and military, being more focused on civil and economic efforts,"he added.
Karzai, for his part, said Thursday's agreement would deepens bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Italy.
"The signing of the agreement formalized the already deep relation that the two countries have, which I am sure will bring further cooperation,"the president added.
Special Report: Afghanistan Situation