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Syria: Monti, pledge to alleviate the humanitarian crisis – NATO: Terzi, concrete solidarity with Turkey

Italy renewed its pledge to support the consolidation of the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime, as well as to “seek to alleviate the serious humanitarian crisis” and gave its consent to the “concrete solidarity” initiative with Turkey involving the deployment of Patriot missiles for the “exclusive defence” of the southeastern borders of NATO. “We are extremely concerned over the Syrian crisis and consider entirely unacceptable the suffering inflicted on the civilian population. We are committed to supporting the consolidation of the Syrian opposition”, was Premier Mario Monti’s statement at the end of a meeting with Lebanese Premier Najib Mikati today in Rome. The premier renewed Italy’s pledge to “seek to alleviate the serious humanitarian crisis”. Italy, he added, “has made €6 million available for humanitarian efforts and we are working on a package that I hope will increase that aid. We are also hoping that aid at EU level can be increased to approximately €120 million”.

“No reduction of the UNIFIL contingent in Lebanon”

Monti also said that he and the Lebanese premier had not spoken of “extending the UNIFIL mission”, but reiterated that Italy “is not considering further reductions in our contingent in Lebanon, since we consider the UNIFIL mission more necessary than ever given the situation in the region”.

NATO’s “Concrete solidarity” with Turkey

Minister Giulio Terzi, who participated in a two-day NATO ministerial meeting that put the central focus on the Syrian situation, explained that the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey under NATO command would serve “exclusively” as a demonstration of concrete solidarity with Turkey, a NATO member, and “has nothing to do with the establishment of a no-fly zone or is in any way to be construed as preparation for military action against the Syrian regime”.

“Unacceptable” the use of chemical weapons

The end of the Bashar al Assad regime “seems near”, Terzi said. And if Damascus were to decide to use chemical weapons, either out of desperation or as a means for spreading the conflict beyond its borders, Terzi stressed that it would be “absolutely unacceptable”, while according to his French colleague Laurent Fabius, the reaction would be “severe”. In the same vein, Britain’s William Hague spoke of the possible “serious consequences”, and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “We know that they have warheads”, and that they have “chemical weapons”. The possible use of nerve gas is a red line not crossable even for Russia. Minister Sergei Lavrov, after the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels, warned that “the use of weapons of mass destruction would have serious implications”, adding that Russia “would not accept any violation of international treaties” if Syria were to use them.

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