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Hon. Minister’s address on the occasion of the meeting with the Ambassadors of the Arab Countries

(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)

Mister Ambassador of Morocco and Doyen of the Arab Diplomats, Hassan Abouyoub

Mister Ambassador of the Arab League, Mubarak Bin Rashi al Buainin

Messrs Ambassadors and Chargés d’Affaires 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ramadan Mubarak!

I am very pleased to welcome you on this opportunity to meet for an open, frank and sincere dialogue on our many issues of common interest.

As you know, I have considerably focused this year on the Mediterranean, because it is a sea which unites us to the Arab Countries. 

The Mediterranean Sea is a true crossroads of different cultures that throughout the millenia have encountered one another. Sicily, the region were I grew up, was influenced by Pheonician, Greek, Roman and Byzantine cultures and was mostly likely enriched by the Arab civilization. 

Sicily’s “Arab period” ranges from 827 to the year 1100, thus extending across more than 270 years. It is a period of history longer than the one of Italian Unity. Hence, the Arab influence on Sicilian culture has been remarkable. There are still testimonies of it today in the names of cities such as Alcamo, Mazara, Sciacca, Modica, Caltanissetta, Favara, of neighborhoods such as Bibirria or Kalsa, and in the names of its inhabitants. 

When I often mention ‘the spirit of Palermo’, I refer to Sicily’s Arab-Muslim roots. First the Arabs, and later the Normans, created a special period of time of cultural development, tolerance and progress. Palermo’s old-town centre is one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites, with its Arab-Norman architecture and the names of its streets in Latin, Greek, Arabic and Hebrew. 

Many years later came the influence of Arab scientific culture, which impacted the Renaissance, and the fields of physics, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and natural sciences. 

We also owe much to trade, as it came before any other means of communication in the Mediterranean, between Europe and the Muslim world. 

I am convinced that, still today, the Mediterranean is ‘a sea of opportunities’, although there are challenges we must face to grasp the full potential of this extraordinary sea. 

Such challenges, I am certain, that we must tackle together, strengthening the cooperation and the coordination between our countries, both in interpreting what is occuring and in adopting the most adequate measures to overcome challenges together. 

This is the spirit I would like today’s meeting to have. I wish to thank once again the Ambassador from Morocco and the Ambassador of the Arab League for their broad and exhaustive focus. 

I will begin with my reflections, starting from the Israel-Palestine Peace Process which you considered, most appropriately, a priority issue. I share the sense of urgency and the need for it to be an international priority, seeking to achieve an equitable and shared solution.

The prospect of two states is in both parties’ interests, and is what may better preserve regional stability. The international community can and must play a supportive role and encourage both parties, but cannot be a substitute to them by taking on the responsibility of brave political choices for the achievement of  peace. I have followed wth great interest President Trump’s journey to Israel and Palestine. And, then, here in Rome, I met with the U.S. Envoy Jason Greenblatt, to whom I said that Italy is ready to give its support -to the U.S. and other key Arab partners- to achieve the aim of the two states -Israel and Palestine- living together in peace and security, with borders in common accord. 

As expressed in many European conclusions, Italy and the European Union will not recognise any changes to the borders prior to 1067, and with regard to Jerusalem, anything not freely agreed upon by the two parties.

I would like to underline two points. First of all, Palestinian national reconciliation is the key element not only for the achievement of a solution between the two states, but especially for the good of the Palestinian population. Secondly, it is vital to accomplish every effort to fight against instigation and violence, which have no justification at all. I have much appreciated the personal commitment of President Mahmoud Abbas. 

If terrorists are considered martyrs it will be difficult to achieve peace, nor the expansion of the settlements. Lastly, I wish to express relief for the end of the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which has been a cause of great concern for us in recent days.
The fight against terrorism is the second theme I would like to consider together with you. I am convinced of the fact that we need to provide new energy to the Coalition Against Daesh. This is a full-time and long-term committment.
We must never drop our guard and be ever more determined -all together- to fight against the channels of illicit funding, its violent storytelling, and the risks of radicalisation fueled by returning fighters.
We must not forget that Arab countries are the main victims of terrorism. Knowing this very well, they can build up a vital force to counter it and provide new ideas on how to remove the conditions which fuel the appeal of terrorism, especially among the youth.
At the Taormina G7 Summit, we assigned a top priority to the fight against terrorism, with great attention to the most vulnerable groups to the calls made by extremists, as youngsters. We have sent out a strong sign to Internet providers to place the Internet of Terror offline. That obscure space of the web which attracts and radicalises so many youngsters, in Europe as well as in Muslim countries.
The Manchester attack makes it clear once again how important it is to call attention to and communicate directly with youngsters. How can we ‘recruit’ them in the field of the ‘moderates’ when in Libya, for instance, unemployment reaches almost 40 percent?  When figures show that there are 250,000-350,000 youth attracted by radical groups? These are not rhetorical questrions. These are issues that demand a joint and strong common action. In youth lie our hopes of winning the fight against terrorism.
Daesh will long remain the most serious threat for security in all our countries. Even when we will have freed the areas where terrorism has its roots, as in Iraq, we will need to continue investing for a long time to stabilise such areas, which means fostering inclusive political dialogue and reconciliation. 

The dramatic crisis in Syria is, for me, a permanent concern, Following the chemical attacks in Idlib, I convened the G7 of Foreign Ministers in Lucca for an unusual extraordinary meeting, open to the region  (G7 countries plus Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Emirates, Jordan and Qatar). 

It was certainly not given for granted that it would work. Yet, we made it without the pretense of protagonism, but on the contrary, very realistically. We worked to relaunch the diplomatic action to reestablish confidence in the Washington-Moscow dialogue on Syria.

We urged Russia and Iran to exercise their influence on Damascus for the enforcement of a cease-fire, to open humanitarian access to the areas under siege and to comply with the international obligations on the use of chemical weapons. We must persuade Iran -with frankness and pragmatism- to grasp the opportunity offered by the nuclear accord. The aim is to be constructive in resolving regional crises and reestablish the political dialogue with Arab Countries, reducing the pressure of Shiite militia, considered to be an element of disturbance. 

We are also facing a new dynamics in Syria, which offers opportunities but also high risks. We are open to the enforcement of the Astana aggreements, but it is necessary to avert the hazard of ‘safe zones’ or ‘de-escalation areas’ becoming consolidated influence areas or a de-facto division of the country. 

Astana is not a forum for political discussions on the future of Syria. Astana has a critical function at this stage, and it is remaining ancillary to the Geneva talks. 

Only through a credibile transition path, mediated by the UN and in accordance with Res. 2254, will the political nodes of the crisis be solved. Therefore, it is of major importance to reiterate the determined support to the Geneva negotiation process, thanks to the efforts made by the UN Envoy, Steffan de Mistura. 

With regards to Libya, during the past weeks the political process had given signs of new viability, thanks to the meeting held in Rome between Aghila Sakeh and Sweili, followed by one between Serrai and Haftar, held in Abu Dhabi. 

Nevertheless, the severe episodes of violence occurred in the southern areas of the country. The recent clashes in Tripoli prove how difficult the path to the country’s consolidation and stabilisation may be. Let us work to stop weapons in the area. The last thing we would like to see is to reopen a door to terrorism, due to tensions. 

The solution to the Libyan crisis can only be a political one. We are convinced that only through an inclusive process, with a strong Libyan ownership within the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), is it possible to stabilise the country and consolidate its institutions.

Italy was among the first countries to assert that Gen. Haftar is an interlocutor that has to be part  of the peace and security equation in Libya. Gen. Haftar does not represent the solution to the problems in Libya. He must accept having a role in a unified security structure, a servant to civil authorities. 

Cohesion of  the international community, which Italy has always been fostering, may make the difference also in this phase. Political instability and insecurity could jeopardise the political reconciliation and the fight against terrorism. All this demands unified efforts. 

Lastly, allow me to say that we are grateful for the action that the Arab family is conducting to support  the institutional consolidation and reconciliation in Libya, also within the framework of the “Quartet” (EU,UN, African Union and Arab League). I would like to take this opportunity to express my condolences to Egypt for the vile attack against Copt Christians, which occurred a few days ago. 

I wish to recall that all ethnic and regligious communities represent an essential component of the history and the societies in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, including Christians. We are members of the great civilizations that have constructed a most remarkable cooperation, with a mutual respect, guaranteeing freedom of religion. Terrorists are trying to divide us, but will not succeed.

It is my determined intention to stimulate an increasingly intense dialogue on the themes of integration, development, growth, cooperation and security in the Mediterranean, in its broadest sense. 

For this reason, I have invited some of the leaders of your countries, and will invite even more of them in the coming days, to participate in the third edition of MED-Rome Mediterranean Dialogues(Nov. 30 – Dec. 2), in order to engage in a fruitful exchange of ideas and experiences on the most important issues regarding our common future and, above all, our young generations. I wish to close by reiterating that I will be most pleased to meet you all again in the evening for Iftar, which I will be honoured to offer at Villa Madama. 

Thank you.