Lebanon's Prime Minister has called on Italian companies to invest in his country as it seeks to address deepening economic challenges.
Saad Hariri met with his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte, at the Grand Serail in Beirut on Thursday.
The two Prime Ministers then held a meeting attended by Minister Jamal Jarrah, former minister Ghattas Khoury, the Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Massimo Marotti and the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel.
After Hariri and Conte held a closed meeting, they toured parts of the Serail and held a joint press conference.
Hariri lauded the relations between Lebanon and Italy and said that "the coming period in Lebanon is a period of work ... with many investment opportunities."
"The relations between Lebanon and Italy are historic and deeply rooted, and we will work together in the next phase to develop and activate them on all levels, especially at the economic, trade and investment levels," Hariri said.
"Italy has always been at the forefront of Lebanon's commercial partners in terms of our imports, which we hope will apply to Lebanese exports to Italy in the near future."
Italy is a traditional trading partner of Lebanon, has invested in its gas and oil sector and also supports Lebanese military and security forces. Rome has over 1,000 peacekeepers in the UN force monitoring the ceasefire with Israel.
Hariri said he's "convinced that Lebanon can be a regional center for the Italian private sector."
For his part, Conte said that Italy is ready to invest in Lebanon and Italian companies are willing to offer their expertise to their Lebanese counterparts.
"We agreed to organize a visit for Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Italy to encourage Italian companies to invest in development projects in Lebanon," Conte said.
He said that Italy will continue to support Lebanon on all levels, stressing the strong friendship between the two countries "based on mutual respect and a common Mediterranean identity."
"Italy has long stood by the Lebanese institutions and the Lebanese people and will continue to contribute to the peace process, to dialogue and to social cohesion."
Furthermore, Hariri thanked Italian companies that are active in fields such as oil and gas and electricity.
"We want to encourage these companies to come and explore investment opportunities in Lebanon," he said.
Hariri added that Lebanon is about to implement numerous infrastructure projects under the framework of CEDRE in which Italian companies can have a stake.
The CEDRE is an international conference in support of Lebanon's development and reforms. Hariri's government hopes to unlock around $11 billion in soft loans and grants pledged by international donors in Paris last year.
Hariri also expressed his gratitude for Italy for always standing beside Lebanon while providing humanitarian and military assistance.
Later in the day, the Italian prime minister will meet with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and visit Italy's UNIFIL (the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon) contingent.