TEHRAN, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Italy can maintain its role as a gateway for Iran to interact with Europe, Tasnim news agency reported on Monday.
Rouhani made the remarks at a meeting with visiting Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino on Sunday, calling for the highest level of bilateral relations between Tehran and Rome in all fields.
"Italy has played the role of an important (economic and commercial) partner of the Islamic republic and has, so far, acted as a gateway for Iran to interact with Europe," Rouhani was quoted as saying.
"We must maintain our bilateral relations based on durable and long-term objectives," he said, adding that the current level of ties between Iran and Italy fall short of the two nations' expectations and both countries are determined to expand their relations.
Rouhani voiced Iran's readiness to meet Italy's energy demands, saying that Tehran wants improved ties with Rome in the fields of industry, energy, commerce, environment, tourism, as well as scientific and cultural interaction.
According to the Italian-Iranian chamber of commerce, annual trade between the two countries has grown notably since 2002, reaching its peak of 9.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2011. However, after the EU's decision of widening commercial sanctions against Iran, bilateral trade in the first eleven months of 2012 was halved to 4.8 billion dollars, which did not stop Italy from being Iran's top European trade partner.
For her part, Bonino expressed her country's readiness to develop all-out relations with the Islamic republic, according to Tasnim.
She said Italy is willing to broaden ties with Iran by formulating a broad range of cooperation in economic, industrial and energy arenas.
She further expressed hope that Italy would help improve interaction between Iran and Europe and boost cooperation with the Islamic republic on regional issues, according to Press TV.
Italy believes that Iran can play a very important role in resolving regional issues through political approaches, the Italian foreign minister was quoted as saying.
On Sunday, the Iranian and Italian foreign ministers also met to exchange views on ways to enhance Tehran-Rome relations and other issues of mutual interest, Press TV reported.
During the meeting, Zarif hailed as "long-standing" and "strong " ties between Iran and Italy, saying that the Islamic republic " attaches importance" to its relations with Italy and the two countries have opportunities to expand regional and international ties.
He pointed to the "good history of cooperation" between Iranian and Italian companies, expressing Iran's readiness to bolster bilateral relations with Italy in the energy and railway transport sectors.
Tehran and Rome share close views on many regional and international developments, said the Iranian foreign minister.
Bonino also described her meetings with senior Iranian official in Tehran as constructive, emphasizing Tehran and Rome's potential in strengthening ties, according to Press TV.
The Italian minister pointed to a memorandum of understanding ( MoU) signed between Tehran and Rome, on the sidelines of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September on Afghanistan, urging for follow-up measures.
Under the agreement, Tehran and Rome agreed to fight drug trafficking and cooperate in reconstructing Afghanistan's devastated infrastructure.
On Sunday, Bonino said at a joint press conference with Zarif that "We want positive presence of Iran in the international conference of Geneva II on Syria crisis."
"Geneva II conference is the will of the United Nations to solve Syria crisis," she said, adding that "all the countries which have influence to stop tragedy in Syria should attend Geneva II conference."
"We hope the participants in the upcoming conference will find a solution to the crisis in the country," she said.
In addition, Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said that " Iran and Italy have many opportunities to expand close cooperation within the framework of common interests, particularly in the field of regional cooperation."
Making the remarks in the meeting with Italian foreign minister, Larijani said enhanced mutual relations between two countries would serve the interests of the Iranian and Italian people.
The Italian foreign minister arrived here on Saturday for talks on bilateral ties and regional and international issues.
Bonino's two-day visit, the first by an Italian official to Tehran since 2004, follows a deal between Iran and six world powers on curbing some of its nuclear activities in exchange for partial sanctions relief.
Bonino has hailed the deal as "the first essential step toward the reconstruction of a climate of indispensable confidence to reassure the international community."