Italy will lead NATO's mission in Iraq next year, "highly values" its bilateral ties with the country and wants to keep helping local security forces stabilise it and defeat the Islamic State and other terror groups.
''Next year, Italy will take over the command of NATO's mission in Iraq," defence minister Loreno Guerini told his Iraqi counterpart Jumaah Enad during talks in Rome on Friday.
"Our presence in Iraq is not in doubt - as long as the Iraqi people want us," Guerini said during his talks with Enad, which Italy's ambassador to Iraq, Bruno Pasquino also attended.
Italy views the war on terror as "a priority" and the 83-member Global Coalition against ISIS must consolidate its gains keep up its battle with "renewed conviction", Guerini stated.
"For Italy, the fight against terrorism remains a priority as is our multi-annual support for local security forces, "Guerini underlined.
Guerini praised the "sacrifices" made by Iraq's security forces in battling the terror threat - "for the whole world" not just the country's citizens.
"This is why we so highly value the training of Iraqi soldiers and police carried out by Italian troops," said Guerini.
Italy is ready to step up the training of Iraqi security forces, also through the use of paramilitary Carabinieri officers "within the framework of Italy's participation in the NATO Mission Iraq (NMI)", Guerini added.
The relationship between Italy and Iraq is one of "reciprocal friendship whose shared goal is the country's stability and prosperity", Guerini said.
Italy wants to boost collaboration with Iraq "swiftly and effectively" especially military and industrial cooperation but also in other sectors, he told Enad.
For his part, Enad thanked Italy for its ongoing commitment to Iraq and its desire to strengthen cooperation with his country.
Enad was part of an Iraqi government delegation led by premier Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who held talks with Italian counterpart Mario Draghi at his office during Friday's visit.
Draghi and Kadhimi's discussions focused on "strengthening the historic bilateral partnership and on the main regional challenges," according to a statement from Draghi's office.