Hagel meets with Italian Minister of Defense over ME and Mediterranean security

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Italian Minister of Defense Mario Mauro on Monday at the Pentagon to discuss mutual interests, including Syria, security in the Mediterranean and Afghanistan.

Hagel commended Italy on its aid to nations in the Middle East and North Africa in the processes of developing democracies. For example, Italy recently initiated a security training program for the Libyan general purpose forces, along with volunteering to help Afghanistan stabilize and rebuild its western region as a framework nation.

Hagel also commended Italy for its involvement in the mission to destroy Syria's chemical weapon stockpile. Italy offered one of its ports for the transportation of chemical weapons from Danish and Norwegian vessels to the Cape Ray, the U.S. ship which has been designated to neutralize Syria's chemical weapons at sea.

Hagel thanked Mauro for Italy's role as a key member to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, being an important ally and taking on responsibilities as a leader in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions.

Hagel also thanked Mauro for the hospitality Italy has shown 33,000 U.S. service member, their families and civilians who live and work in Italy. The leaders will reconvene at the 2014 NATO Summit, which Hagel said he is looking forward to.