U.S. Department of State
October 2, 2019
Villa Madama, Rome, Italy
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, Foreign Minister Di Maio. Grazie. You have been a most gracious host. I had wonderful meetings with President Mattarella and Prime Minister Conte yesterday, truly excellent hospitality in the finest Italian tradition. I look forward to showing your president Italian-American hospitality when he comes to Washington in just a couple of weeks.
The – we’re both smiling because the deep and abiding ties between the United States and Italy are very personal for me. As the foreign minister said, I’m one of 20 million Americans who proudly claim Italian heritage, and the first one ever to serve as Secretary of State. Tomorrow I’ll get a chance to go visit my ancestral home in Abruzzo, and I’m looking forward to meeting all my cousins. (Laughter.) And I hear the food is worth meeting as well.
We had an excellent discussion today about the close cooperation that lies ahead for the United States and the new Italian Government. That cooperation will be well served by President Trump’s already strong relationship with President Mattarella and Prime Minister Conte. But our true bonds come from the central shared value set, a commitment to the same principles of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human dignity.
I was pleased to affirm America’s commitment in particular to religious freedom earlier this morning at a conference that was held at the Vatican. Our principles together have produced a security partnership that has helped underpin peace and stability in the West for decades. We’re very grateful for what Italy has done and its active leadership in Libya and in North Africa, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’m also grateful that 30,000 men and women of the United States military, DOD civilians, and their family members can call Italy their temporary home. You are wonderful hosts for them, and we appreciate that.
I know too that we can do more together. We should keep using the U.S.-Italy Strategic Dialogue to find ways to improve stability on Europe’s southern frontier and grow our security cooperation in the Mediterranean. And we should continue to stand united against Iranian aggression. European nations have begun to wake up to the fact that Iran is the aggressor, not the aggrieved, and the fact is also clear from Italy’s decision not to renew Mahan Air’s access to Italy, and we’re very grateful for that.
I’ve asked for Italy’s support too, and we talked about today the necessary task of confronting Nicolas Maduro for his repression and the socialist mismanagement that has taken place in Venezuela. EU sanctions should be enforced against Russia until such time that the situation changes materially.
And finally, Italy is a friend and a sovereign nation with a right to make its own choices, but as I have done in Budapest and Bangkok, I urge my Italian friends to see how China uses its economic power to cultivate political influence and erode sovereignty. I raise concerns about China’s zero-sum predatory approach to trade and investment, and what it could mean throughout Europe and Africa and the world at large. These are complicated issues with no easy answers, but my obligation is to speak the truth about these threats, a set of common threats which will continue to create confidence in our two peoples, that our partnership between our two countries will remain strong and enduring.
Thank you for having us.