By Peter Tase
On July 13, 2014, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev embarked on a two-day official visit in the Republic of Italy. This is perhaps one of the most successful trips of President Aliyev to a European Union member country such as Italy.
On the following day, the first activity for the Azerbaijani head of state was a visit to the monument of Nizami Ganjavi – located in Villa Borghese Park in Rome – a great poet and thinker of Azerbaijan. President Aliyev placed a wreath of flowers to honor the memories and great accomplishments of this great figure in Azerbaijan’s history of literature. Ganjavi’s monument in Rome was inaugurated, on December 23, 2011, on the occasion of 870th anniversary of Nizami Ganjavi; a great Azerbaijani poet and thinker, and was under the patronage of President Ilham Aliyev. The monument was unveiled in April, 2012 as part of a series of events marking the anniversary of Nizami Ganjavi, with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Subsequently, President Ilham Aliyev visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome, where he also placed a wreath of flowers, accompanied by the guard of honor standing in front of the memorial.
On July 14th, President Aliyev met with President Giorgio Napolitano, with whom he discussed the great bilateral relations that exist between both countries. President Aliyev was joined by the Foreign Minister and other members of this cabinet, in this constructive meeting with Italian Chief of State in Rome. 
Throughout their conversations, both heads of state expressed their satisfaction on the current cooperation between Azerbaijan and Italy, there are many areas in which this partnership is flourishing such as political, economic and cultural projects. President Aliyev expressed his willingness to further expand the bilateral ties between Baku and Rome as well as strengthen Azerbaijan’s partnership with European Union structures. President Giorgio Napolitano noted that it is critical to better coordinate the initiatives during Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Another matter of great interest is the ongoing development of projects in the energy sector including the Trans-Adriatic Pipe and cooperation in the areas of defense, technology and international organizations. Indeed Italy has expressed in multiple occasions its support for Azerbaijan’s full membership in the World Trade Organization.
The conflict of Nagorno – Karabakh was also mentioned in the discussions and both heads of state advocated a peaceful solution of this problem.
President Aliyev had also a very successful meeting with the President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, with whom he discussed the current economic situation in Azerbaijan and invited him to visit Baku during the course of this year. During their meeting, Sen. Grasso noted the successful development of Azerbaijani-Italian strategic relations in various areas. Both sided noted that Italy was the main trade partner of Azerbaijan, and stressed the importance of diversifying the economic cooperation. It was said that the activities of numerous Italian companies in Azerbaijan have contributed to the development of bilateral relations. President Aliyev noted that the relations between the two countries played an immense role in the development cooperation of Azerbaijan-European Union.  The sides expressed confidence that joint efforts and projects would be carried out during Azerbaijan`s presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The president of the Italian Senate said his country considered Azerbaijan as the guarantor of stability in the Caucasus. After his meeting at the Senate of Italy, President Aliyev attended the signing of bilateral agreements held at the office of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome. 
In this occasion was signed: “The Joint Declaration on strategic partnership between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Italy”; “The Agreement on maritime transportation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Italy”, signed by the Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan Natig Aliyev and Italian Minister for Infrastructures, Transport and Telecommunications Maurizio Lupi.
The Memorandum of Understanding on economic cooperation between the Ministry of Economy and Industry of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Economic Development of the Italian Republic; was signed by the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Italy Vagif Sadigov and Italian Deputy Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda. 
“The Memorandum of Understanding on cultural cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities of the Republic of Italy” was signed by the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Abulfas Garayev and State Secretary of the Italian Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities Francesca Barracciu.
“The Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the area of sports between the Ministry of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Department of Regional Affairs, Sports and Autonomy – Sports Office in the Prime Minister’s office of the Republic of Italy” was signed by the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and State Secretary of the Italian Cabinet of Ministers Graziano Delrio.
In a press statement President Aliyev emphasized: “I am very pleased to come to the beautiful city of Rome. It is a very important day for our relations. Italian-Azerbaijani relations are developing very well and cover various areas. We are good friends and partners. We are proud of the fact that Azerbaijan is involved in restoring your historical and architectural heritage. Your history, culture and architecture belong to all mankind. Azerbaijan is proud to be involved in this process. Today we held discussions with the mayor and will continue our cooperation. The Agreement signed today means that we have entered a new stage of cooperation. Political, economic and energy issues are very important for us, as they connect our countries. However, culture connects not only politicians and countries, but also people. Today, the intercultural relations between our countries, contacts between our people and the mutual interest in each other’s history will reinforce this partnership.”
During his visit, President Ilham Aliyev conducted a tour in the Mercati di Traiano museum in Rome where he met with Mayor Ignazio Marino and answered questions from Italian journalists.
The Azerbaijani head of state was informed about Mercati di Traiano, a museum that has a rare collection with a great importance towards the study of ancient Rome. The recent excavations have opened up wide opportunities for studying different periods of ancient history. 
During this meeting, Mayor Ignazio Marino stated that the relations between Azerbaijan and Italy are expanding in political, economic and energy areas and expressed his satisfaction with the development of Azerbaijan. He added that Rome is interested to develope cultural relations with Azerbaijan, this will provide good opportunities ‘to our countries and peoples in order to know better our sociesties.” Touching upon the extensive cooperation with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the Mayor of Rome said he was well aware of the Foundation`s numerous cultural and humanitarian projects of universal importance. Mr. Marino recalled his recent meeting with the First Lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva in Rome and emphasized the great importance of the projects implemented jointly with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. Rome’s mayor appreciated the contributions made from the Heydar Aliyev Foundation to archaeological excavations around the Mercati di Traiano museum.
President Ilham Aliyev stated: “I think this is an important element of our bilateral relations, cultural cooperation was of special importance. Italian history and culture is very popular in Azerbaijan and the promotion of Azerbaijan`s culture in Italy is of great importance. The relations between the two countries have reached an excellent level. Italy is Azerbaijan`s key trading partner in Europe and in the world. Energy partnership is successful, with the TAP project.”
President Aliyev attended the signing ceremony of the bilateral agreement between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Mayor`s Office in Rome. The agreement allocated funds for archaeological excavations in the area of the Mercati di Traiano museum. In a press conference Mayor Ignazio Marino stated: “We are grateful to President Ilham Aliyev for helping us. With this help we will carry out archeological excavations in Alexandria Street. We promise that during the next visit of President Aliyev to Italy we will show the results of the work done.”
One of the last meetings of President Ilham Aliyev in Rome was the meeting with Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Jose Graziano da Silva.  In their conversations, both leaders noted that the cooperation between Azerbaijan and FAO had been developing at a remarkable level; they spoke about the economic achievements that Azerbaijan has accomplished in the last years. President Aliyev stated that “agriculture had developed in Azerbaijan and reforms carried out in this area have yielded good results, and noted that government support to farmers has increased year by year.” On July 15, 2014, President Ilham Aliyev ended his highly successful official visit to Italy, while reviewing the honor guard of the Italian Armed Forces before leaving Rome’s International Airport.