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EU Foreign Affairs Council – Syria and Ukraine a priority, Bonino – bring marines home

The Syrian crisis and its repercussions in Lebanon and Iraq, the Southern Neighbourhood, and Ukraine are among the main topics on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meeting of EU foreign ministers today in Brussels. Minister Emma Bonino will outline Italy’s position on the various items on the table, and will also reintroduce the question of the marines, in order to voice Italy’s disappointment at India’s decision to invoke the anti-terrorism act as the foundation for its case against the two Italian sharpshooters.

Marines: terrorism an unreasonable charge, says Bonino

The Indian prosecutor’s request to try the marines on the basis of the anti-terrorism act is “absolutely unacceptable” and is tantamount to calling “Italy a terrorist country”, Bonino stated, expressing the hope that a week from now the Indian Supreme Court, which must rule on this, “will realise the total unacceptability and unreasonableness of this charge”. “The marines are not terrorists”, but rather “were officials in the process of rendering service. We have therefore vehemently protested this position”, and “it is unthinkable” to consider “a country about to assume the presidency of the European Union a few months from now” a terrorist.

Ukraine: maintaining control

Among the other agenda items at the Brussels meeting are EU-Russian relations, on which Bonino considers it necessary to launch a technical dialogue on the effects of Association Agreements with the Eastern Partnership on the Russian economy. Ukraine: Italy wishes to avoid things spinning out of hand, keeping requests for sanctions and financial assistance outside the existing framework. Conclusions on Ukraine are expected.

Syria: EU mobilisation on humanitarian aid

Syria: It is important that the EU work toward fostering implementation of 12 concrete actions in priority areas of intervention, giving priority to humanitarian access in the areas under siege. Also necessary is an UN Security Council resolution on aid access. Lebanon: priority to International Support Group (ISG) and Italy’s role in organising the next conference in support of the Lebanese armed forces (LAF), which will be hosted by Italy.

Egypt: encouraging inclusion

According to the minister, an exclusively security-based approach to the protests is not sustainable. It is also necessary to promote the “inclusion = stability” equation and encourage reforms. Iraq: Bonino will stress the importance that the government launch an inclusive political process of reconciliation (conclusions). Tunisia: Italy concerned with raising awareness on the advisability that the EU encourage the country by increasing assistance and collaboration (conclusions on Tunisia and Egypt).

Libya: political solution needed

Libya: needed a political solution that leads to inclusive and consensual transition. Yemen and Central African Republic: on Yemen Bonino appreciates the positive developments in the transition process, while Italy hopes that the shared costs of the EUFOR military operation are being kept under control (conclusions).