Italian President, in Jordan, Voices Concern over Violence between Israel, Palestinians
Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi arrived in Amman on Wednesday for a three-day state visit, voicing concern over the rising violence between Israel and the Palestinians and appealing for peace talks to resume, said reports.
Ciampi, who is accompanied by his wife, was given a red-carpet welcome by Jordan's King Abdullah and Queen Rania at Marka military airport on the outskirts of Amman, said the Jordan Times newspaper.
The visit, the first by an Italian head of state to Jordan in 18 years, came amid a deadly flare-up of violence in Israel where a Palestinian bus driver killed eight Israelis and injured at least twenty in southern Tel Aviv.
As his plane circled over Israel before touching down in Jordan, Ciampi sent a message to Israeli President Moshe Katsav underscoring the importance of moving ahead with peace in spite of the bloodshed, said AFP.
"This renewed act of violence must not weaken Israel's commitment to the peace process, which the international community is following with hope," Ciampi said in the message.
"Progress (in Middle East talks) in the past remains precious and must not be cast aside," Ciampi said.
"I do hope that the Middle East will be back on the path to dialogue as soon as possible," he added, calling for an end to the violence "on both sides".
Ciampi said he had been "terrified by news of the attack."
The Italian president held talks with King Abdullah on consolidating peace efforts to secure a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East as well as strengthening bilateral ties.
On Thursday, Ciampi will address the lower and upper chambers of the Jordanian parliament in the first speech of its kind to be delivered by the president to an Arab assembly, said the paper.
Italian sources said Ciampi was expected to make a vibrant appeal for a greater European role, alongside the United States, in guaranteeing peace in the troubled Middle East, the agency added.
Italy, one of Jordan's main European trading partners, signed a memorandum of understanding with the country in 2000 establishing the Italian Aid Program for 2001-2002.
The program allocates five million dollars in grants and 80 million dollars in soft loans to help support economic reforms in the kingdom.
In February, Italy agreed to reschedule 20.6 million dollars of Jordan's debt and, in June, Rome and Amman signed a deal to swap 68 million dollars of public debt into funds to finance development schemes.
Italy contributes to several projects in the kingdom in the fields of forestry, geology, health, technical assistance and professional training as well as road and energy schemes, AFP said.
Ciampi will conclude his visit to Jordan on Friday with a tour of the ancient Nabatean rose-red city of Petra in southern Jordan with its awesome burial temples dug in the rock.
His wife, Franca, toured Wednesday a center for abused children in Jordan, the first of its kind in the Arab world, with Queen Rania – Albawaba.com
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