Italy considers protection of the lives, safety and well being of the hostages an absolute value, and remains “clearly against the payment of ransoms”. The message Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi’ brought to Algiers was a clear one. Although the visit was mainly intended to focus on economic cooperation, it was impossible to neglect the dossier on the abduction in that country of two Italian nationals, Rossella Urru and Maria Sandra Mariani, both of whom are still in the hand of their captors.
Rome underscored that it was necessary to avoid the repetition of military acceleration or excessive media exposure. “I spoke about Urru and Mariani in very specific terms”, the minister said, after meeting in Algiers with Algerian foreign minister Mourad Medelci, “asserting the need for counter-terrorism operations, with which Algeria has a great deal of experience, but in any case, the absolute value of protecting the lives and safety of the hostages. Terzi then added that “Italy is clearly against the payment of ransoms for hostages”, citing the negative fact that the funds “are inevitably funneled to terrorist groups”. Finally, he explained that he intended to maintain the maximum reserve on eventual developments, “always essential in such cases” he said.
Concern for the fate of the hostages in Algeria is not an isolated or unique theme in the vision that Italy conveyed to Algiers of stronger economic, political and security cooperation, these words being the key to a strategic relationship that has long linked Italy and Algeria and been beneficial to both. But with an Arab world in transformation, where the still uncertain outcome of the Arab spring depends on stability, there are “developments that deserve careful examination”.
So strategy first, and it has to be an economic one. The Italian foreign ministry sees a direct link between regional economic growth and security, and also for that reason considers Europe’s greater visibility in the countries of the southern Mediterranean shores crucial. That’s why relations need to be strengthened also at European level. In Italy’s view that means revival, as witnessed by the upcoming Italo-Algerian summit, an annual event uninterrupted since 2007, at which it is necessary, however, to arrive prepared. The first step is the mission to Algiers involving Minister Terzi and a large group of Italian business persons, who were also offered some assurances: “the Algerian government sincerely wants to reduce the weight of bureaucracy and to work on diversifying its economic apparatus, Terzi reported, touching on one of the most critical points in strengthening economic cooperation. “Our firms, they tell me, are welcome”, he continued, “There is a great desire to work toward diversifying the economic apparatus and industrial production, going beyond the energy sector, which is naturally one of the pillars in relations with Italy”.