Strengthening economic relations and bilateral trade, as well as discussion of the most pressing regional dossiers, ranging from Syria to the stalled Middle East peace talks, to the Iranian nuclear programme combines to form the central focus of the third Italy-Israel intergovernmental summit, the first under the guidance of Premier Mario Monti, since that of June 2011 in Rome during the Berlusconi government.
A business oriented summit: 7 agreements signed
The summit was a business-oriented one, with a country whose economy has already returned to pre-crisis levels and with which Italian trade has doubled over the past 9 years from 2 to 4 billion euro. Seven agreements were signed in Jerusalem by Premier Monti and the ministers accompanying him on his mission (Giulio Terzi, Corrado Passera, Paola Severino, Giampaolo di Paola, Francesco Profumo). The agreements regard intergovernmental consultation, cultural cooperation, extension of trilateral cooperation to Ethiopia and Sudan, start-up companies, conversion of driving licenses and youth exchanges.
The agenda also included the more delicate foreign policy dossiers, which Terzi discussed with his colleague Avigdor Lieberman, beginning with the Iranian nuclear programme, with regard to which, according to Terzi at the end of his meeting, Israel “appreciates the EU’s commitment, especially after the strengthening of sanctions against Teheran”, in the hopes that these might contribute to convincing Iran to comply with UN resolutions. Italy and the EU consider clear sanctions and concrete dialogue the most effective means for avoiding the possibility of military intervention already intimated by Israel, Terzi explained.
Concern for the spread of the crisis
Terzi and Lieberman also shared concerns over the possible spread of the Syrian crisis, particularly to Lebanon following the car-bomb in Beirut, which killed the head of intelligence, and street protests by Sunni and Christian-Maronites. Terzi reported to his Israeli colleague about recent contacts with representatives of the Syrian oppositions, while Lieberman voiced Israel’s concern about that Palestinian Authority’s attempts to gain non-member status in the UN. According to Terzi the peace process cannot be abandoned and remains one of the priorities of both the EU and Italy.
The route to stronger bilateral relations between Italy and Israel runs through science and culture. Hence the creation of the “Italy-Israel Foundation for Culture and the Arts”, which is part of the foreign ministry’s strategy for growth that places culture in the forefront among the tools for promoting and enhancing Italian excellence abroad, particularly when it comes to a country like Israel with which we maintain such close ties.