Madam First Vice-President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank you - Mr President - for the cordial expressions of esteem and consideration you have addressed to Italy and its people.
Furthermore, I would like to thank you for the warm welcome you have given me, my daughter and the delegation accompanying me.
I am very pleased that this State Visit to Azerbaijan, the first of a President of the Italian Republic, can take place in such an important moment.
In fact, this visit - which allows me to return the visits made to our country by you and your lovely wife - takes place on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan. This anniversary was also celebrated in Rome in the last months and during the year of the Italian Presidency of the OSCE, an organisation which was set up to promote dialogue and peaceful cooperation between the Countries.
The growth of mutual trust between nations and peoples - together with the respect for universally recognised principles of international law - is the necessary condition to increase stability in the relations between States and it provides an essential basis for development and progress.
In more than a quarter of a century of diplomatic relations, the relationship between Azerbaijan and Italy has undergone an extraordinary evolution.
Over the years, a dense network of cultural, political, institutional and economic-commercial exchanges has developed. This network has allowed us to get to know each other better and strengthen our friendship by planting the seeds of a strategic partnership that looks to the future with the aim of further consolidating our relations in every sector.
This friendship has strengthened over the last decades by drawing on deep and long-standing roots.
Not far from its capital-city - where the historical-architectural memories of the past are perfectly blending with the growing influence of modernity - Azerbaijan is home to the easternmost of the Latin epigraphs that have survived to this day, bearing witness to the fact that this area was considered strategic for the Mediterranean region even in ancient times.
This fact has been confirmed during the last decades by a very important choice made by your country.
Without abandoning its traditional position, Azerbaijan wanted, in fact, to be more closely connected to that Greater Mediterranean region in which Italy - for obvious geographical reasons and thoughtful political choices - has always been at the centre.
We look at Azerbaijan's present and future through the prism of this choice, reinforced by the development of strong ties between Baku and the European Union and by the fruitful cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Atlantic Alliance.
The complex challenges we have to face lead to the consolidation of relations aimed at achieving regional stability, within a framework that underlines the need to preserve a peaceful coexistence between cultures and religions. Azerbaijan's example in this sense is a valuable one.
For many years, our countries have been working together successfully in a variety of areas, especially in the fields of energy and industry, which are the cornerstones of our bilateral relations.
It is particularly gratifying for me to see how the relationship between Azerbaijan and Italy - far from being at an end or limited to the nonetheless important economic dimension - has been enhanced by a profound cultural and social value over the years.
In recent years, the number of study visas granted to Azerbaijani students has more than doubled, a particularly encouraging trend, which makes us proud and which we intend to further promote, by actively cultivating the talent of the young people of this country and the opportunities for study and exchange of experience with our young people.
Cultural relations are a shared priority to which Italy intends to give further consideration also through important and high-profile projects, which are the result of the collaboration between the cultural and scientific institutions of our countries.
The capital city of Azerbaijan offers its visitors a wide range of fascinating cultural and historical-architectural influences whose great importance as part of the World Heritage of mankind has been duly recognised.
This legacy, together with the remarkable potential of a young and talented population, is an invaluable asset on which we can continue to build a future of peace, openness, dialogue and prosperity.
Italy will henceforth remain a sincere, determined and loyal partner of Azerbaijan.
In this spirit, I invite everyone to raise their glasses to your and your family's prosperity and well-being, to the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Italy and to the friendship between our nations.