United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Rome from New York early on Wednesday, 18 April, and started his official visit to Italy with a meeting with the President, Giorgio Napolitano, followed by one with the Foreign Minister, Massimo D’Alema. The topics covered at those two meetings included the Middle East, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kosovo, climate change, United Nations reform, Darfur, Somalia and Western Sahara.
At a joint press encounter with the Foreign Minister after their meeting, the Secretary-General told reporters that he had very useful and constructive meetings with the two Italian leaders. He commended Italy as the only country to rank in the top eight in both troop and financial contributions to the United Nations.
“ Italy has been part of some of the UN's toughest and most vital missions, from Somalia to Timor-Leste to Kosovo and Lebanon and Afghanistan,” he said. “I hope the United Nations and Italy will continue to work together in search of multilateral solutions to the challenging problems in the world today.”
The Secretary-General was asked about capital punishment, and he said that he and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, “fully support the growing trend in the international community towards the abolition of the use of the death penalty”.
The Secretary-General then continued his discussions with the Italian Foreign Minister over a working luncheon and then met with the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. He also met with Fernando Cassini, President of the International Parliamentarians Union.In the evening, he met tête-à-tête with Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City.
He also met with the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and visited the Sistine Chapel.After that, he attended a dinner hosted by the Presidents of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Secretary-General, on Thursday, visited the United Nations Logistics Base in Brindisi, where he observed the main facility that provides support to United Nations field operations worldwide.
He toured warehouses that stock tents, blankets and high-protein biscuits, which are ready to be sent at the outset of any humanitarian emergency worldwide, and he listened to staff explain the logistical challenges of setting up communications equipment in remote peacekeeping outposts. He also met with the staff.
The Secretary-General then flew back to Rome, where he attended a luncheon hosted by Mayor Walter Veltroni, before leaving Italy for Switzerland.The Secretary-General said, in remarks to reporters afterwards, that, in addition to what he has achieved for the development and preservation of history and culture, Mayor Veltroni had “done a great deal to address African development, as well as on peace and security issues”. He added that they had discussed the Alliance of Civilizations, among other topics.
He concluded his first official visit to Italy as Secretary-General on Thursday afternoon, and left for Switzerland.