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MALI – Italy cannot not take part in EU mission, says Terzi

Mali risks being precipitated into a crisis “worse than Somalia and Afghanistan” and “Italy cannot not take part in the EU training operation” in view of its commitment to combating terrorism. These points were underscored by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi in his briefing to the Foreign Affairs and Defence joint committees at the Chamber of Deputies today, 22 January. The Minister was referring to developments in the crisis in this north African country, swept by fighting by rebel groups.


Conditions could become worse than in Somalia and Afghanistan


As Terzi explained, “Mali is experiencing a crisis of serious proportions. It needs support from the international community, or it could sink, irreversibly, into ‘failed state’ status. […] The country could be precipitated into worse conditions than Somalia or Afghanistan”. The timescale will undoubtedly be long. And “unless the African and Malian forces shoulder their responsibilities in full, it will be hard to emerge from the crisis”, warned the Minister.


Italy is engaged “not just in combating terrorism, but in fostering stability and development in the Sahel region. We cannot not take part – even if only to a limited extent – in this EU operation”, underscored Terzi. He reiterated the government’s decision to send from 15 to 24 instructors, out of 450 envisaged by the training mission, as set out in the “Missions Decree” that will be considered by the Chamber today.


Parliament’s thinking “in tune with government position”


Terzi also underlined that the Parliament’s thinking is “in tune with the government’s position, […] with broad agreement on the need for and urgency of this French-African and international community operation”. In any case, the Government intends to move “prudently and weigh up all the implications, but all the time with a sense of responsibility vis-à-vis our national interests, and Europe’s”


Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola observed that “a logistics contribution by the Italian armed forces would be both useful and possible”. This would take the form of “two C-130 transport planes and a 767 aircraft for in-flight refuelling”, in addition to the instructors envisaged by the European mission. The commitment could last for “two-to-three months” and, as Di Paola pointed out, must be decided by Parliament.


Missions Decree approved by a wide margin


After the hearing, and in the presence of Under-Secretaries de Mistura and Dassù, the Chamber passed the “Missions Decree” this afternoon. The decree was carried with a wide margin by the various political groupings: 384 votes for, 24 against and 13 abstentions.  During the hearing, the Chamber also approved the agenda item tabled by the Hons. Frattini, Tempestini and Adornato on logistics support for the operations in Mali. At the morning hearing and those following it, various speakers had underscored the importance of having a provision in place to cover such support.