General Carlo Gualdi, Central Director of the anti drug services of the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs, visited Uzbekistan on 17 – 24 September. The visit was a follow up of the plans to strengthen bilateral cooperation between Italy and Uzbekistan in the framework of the plan approved by the Uzbek Government on 26 December 2006.
In the last several months Italy has considerably increased its attention to Central Asia showing a renovated attention for the region that is not only important for its natural resources of oil, gas and metals, but is also a strategic partner for a geo-political development of the entire former Soviet Union. In May there was the visit to the region (Tashkent, Ashgabat, Dushanbe, Bishkek and Astana) of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy Sen. Vernetti. Then on 10 September the conference on Central Asia was organized in Rome with the participation of all Central Asian countries.
Now the visit of General Gualdi focused on anti-terrorism and anti-narcotic struggle, and in a few days a visit of Italian Premier Romano Prodi is expected to Astana that will certainly discuss not only bilateral relations but above all the recent conflict between ENI (the giant Italian oil company) and the Kazakh Government.
There is no doubt that the diplomatic action is taking momentum and that Italy, and other European partners, realize more and more that to guarantee regular energy supply, all countries need political stability and a serious struggle against organized crime and terrorism.
During the various high level meetings the growing strategic importance of Central Asia and Uzbekistan in the fight against drug trafficking was clearly emphasized, and both parties agree on a further extension of bilateral relations with the objective of combating organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking.
Italy has been a strong supporter of any anti-drug trafficking activity and for this purpose is closely cooperating with the regional office for Central Asia of UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).