First Silk Road Cities Cooperation Forum bears fruit in Venice

Updated: 2015-07-24 11:13


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VENICE - Key agreements and fruitful talks were the harvest of a forum held in Venice on Thursday about the role of China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative in strengthening relations between cities in China, Italy and other countries on the Silk Road route.

A memorandum of understanding for a database to gather basic information of each city along the Belt and Road, and another one between the Venice port and the Ningbo port, were among the agreements signed at the first Silk Road Cities Cooperation Forum hosted in the hometown of traveler Marco Polo.

"In fact Marco Polo had crossed both the road and maritime Silk Road, but what is important today is that the European-Asian relations continue to be crucial," Paolo Costa, Chairman of the Venice Port Authority, said.

Based on the agreement, the two ports will exchange information, technologies and projects including the "innovative idea of an offshore port" in Venice which would boost capacity of the existing onshore port and connect Venice with other Italian ports as well as with the heart of central and eastern Europe, Costa explained to Xinhua in an interview on the sidelines of the forum.

In ancient times the Silk Road played a fundamental role in connecting the cultures of Asia and Europe and bringing their civilizations closer, while fostering commercial and economic exchanges.

The Silk Road Economic Belt, together with the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, commonly known as the Belt and Road Initiative, were proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.

The initiative bring together countries in Asia, Europe and even Africa via overland and maritime networks, with the purpose of boosting infrastructure building, financial cooperation and cultural exchanges in those regions.

Hao Yaohua, President of Silk Road Cities Alliance, stressed the indispensable role of cities along the Belt and Road in realizing the "five cooperation priorities", or policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds of the Belt and Road.

The Silk Road Cities Alliance, which aims to support cooperation between cities along the route, co-organized the forum with Priorita Cultura (Culture is Priority), an association promoting culture as a tool for international dialogue, chaired by former culture minister of Italy Francesco Rutelli.

"It can be said that the Belt and Road and the cities develop and prosper with the help of each other," Hao, who is also a senior editor and correspondent at Xinhua News Agency, went on saying in front of authorities, scholars and entrepreneurs from China, Italy and other countries including Turkey and Malta.

The forum, attended by Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, was the second event of two days dedicated to the role of Belt and Road and related "cultural diplomacy."

An exchange program in the food sector, a project on strategic cooperation in cultural infrastructures as well as a collaboration plan in sport along the new Silk Road route were among the memorandums of understanding signed at a conference held at the world exposition in Milan on Wednesday.

Deputy Director of the International Cooperation Center of National Development Song Gongmei noted that China's exports and investment increased steadily in the first half of 2015 as the country strengthened economic ties with the Belt and Road region.

"Bilateral trade with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative reached close to 3 trillion yuan ($483 billion), about one fourth of the total trade volume," she said.

Earlier this week, the Chinese delegation led by Li Zhaoxing, former Chinese Foreign Minister and currently the President of China Public Diplomacy Association, a non-profit organization comprising relevant institutions and personalities in the field of public diplomacy, was received by Italian President Sergio Mattarella in the presidential palace in Rome.