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Bonino: «An opportunity for the entire Middle East. We must proceed with prudence» (Corriere della Sera)

Rome 25 November 2013
Corriere della Sera
Paolo Valentino

«We are looking at a preliminary, 6-month accord that calls for constant monitoring, which sounds like a prudent accord to me. After such a long freeze, it is surely an important step, a partial but significant outcome. If we all continue to work in the same direction, it may also be possible to facilitate other issues within the general diplomatic efforts under way in the Middle East. With all due caution, my assessment is absolutely positive».

Emma Bonino waited up late for the announcement from Geneva. The Italian foreign minister, who will receive a summary of the meetings this morning from one of its protagonists, her Russian colleague Lavrov, is satisfied with this success, which could have broad repercussions.

An yet Israeli Premier Netanyahu has defined it as an “historic mistake”. What can we say to the Israeli leaders to reassure them that this is the right way?

«I have read Netanyahu’s and Lieberman’s statements, but I have also heard the more moderate words of Tzipi Livni; and, above all, the great good sense and realism shown by former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, who tells me that the agreement isn’t bad, because, and I quote: “it was ingenuous to think that the Iranians would have begun to dismantle their centrifuges, but we have to remember that from this moment on there will be inspectors checking the situation daily”. Moreover, President Obama’s statement, also cautious, addressed the Israeli concerns. The monitoring commission, as indicated by my Iranian colleague Zarif, is the key point in the agreement».

From the point of view of internal Iranian balances, will the accord strengthen Rowhani against regime hardliners?

«Well, there are always going to be people ready to spoil the party. The problem is to be aware of how strong they are».

An agreement, even if it is temporary, creates and generates optimism, triggers new dynamics. You have already hinted at this: what concrete influence could this have on the Syrian negotiations?

«After years of cold war and stalled international cooperation, Geneva is the second sign of a new phase following the UN resolution on chemical weapons. Effective multilateralism is being given a rare opportunity that must not be allowed to slip away. This agreement opens a window of opportunity that we must be careful to keep open. We have to work on Syria with determination and conviction. Obviously we will insist with Lavrov on the need to achieve a political solution, but what is needed in the immediate present are humanitarian efforts to confront what has become an unsustainable tragedy both for those who manage to escape as well as those who remain. Even the Iranians have shown they are willing to lend a hand, as Minister Zarif confirmed here in Rome».

Vladimir Putin arrives in Rome today and will be in Trieste tomorrow for the Italo-Russian summit, to which the events of recent hours give special significance. What is Italy expecting from these talks?

«Apart from current international events, the Russians have a lot of expectations of the Italian EU Presidency beginning in June, given that current relations with Europe are rather at a low ebb. We are expecting to open a line of dialogue, critical, but dialogue just the same».

Not least because Russia is experiencing a phase of great activism on the international stage, beginning with the Middle East.

«We cannot think that when spaces open up that Moscow will not choose to play. The problem is whether or not to play cooperatively; it seems to me that after so many years the former may prevail. Certain tables of discussion are obligatory; if you will allow me an aside: it was not very opportune for Italy to stay out of the Iranian issue in 2003; getting back into the game is never simple».

Will you and Premier Letta raise the issue of human rights in Russia?

«That’s for certain, as I have done in earlier meetings with Lavrov; this is something that we hold very dear».

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