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Rome puts the issue of piracy on the G8 agenda

Freedom of navigation in international waters and therefore indirectly the issue of piracy, will be on the agenda of the G8 foreign ministers meeting today and tomorrow in Washington, in preparation for the summit of heads of state and government to be held at Camp David in mid-May. Italy asked to have this point added to the agenda, and it will therefore be discussed by Minister Giulio Terzi with Hillary Clinton and their other colleagues. The two Italian marines being detained in India will not be treated explicitly, but the hope is that the topic will be mentioned in the G8 communiqué, thereby tightening the pressure on New Delhi to resolve the problem.

Our harmony with the Americans on this point arises from the emphasis that Washington places on the link between economic issues and global security and stability. The two must be considered inseparable. Since maritime commerce is enormously important, beginning with the thousands of barrels of oil crossing the oceans on a daily basis, ensuring its safety is fundamental for everyone.The first point in the success of this undertaking is to ensure freedom of navigation in international waters in compliance with universally acknowledged and accepted principles. Approximately 115 countries are actively engaged in ensuring that freedom, with various missions to counter piracy and other threats ranging from organized crime to the forces of states not in line with the international community. All those countries have a direct interest in working jointly, and Italy would be pleased to see a common declaration of intent in that sense. Rome would also like to underscore the responsibility of coastal states in facilitating counter-criminal efforts.

India would not be cited directly, but it is clear that the incident involving the Italian marines violates freedom of navigation and complicates the fight against piracy. All the American experts in the sector seem united on the stance that the behaviour of the Italian marines can surely be the object of inquiry, but that the jurisdiction is Rome’s owing to the fact that the incident took place in international waters. A trial held abroad resulting in a guilty verdict would have a deleterious effect on what are already complicated counter-piracy operations. Many countries could use this precedent as an excuse for suspending or limiting patrols that are already very costly and dangerous.

Italy will bring the question of Libya to the table also, so as to give the local leadership a chance to demonstrate its ability to get the country back on track. Minister Terzi outlined a general strategy for helping the Arab spring to pursue a constructive path in an article published on the Huffington Post website. Rome has an obvious direct interest in stabilising Libya as soon as possible, since we are going into summer and the disorder could encourage the flow of illegal immigrants toward our shores. The objective, therefore, is to transform this emergency into an international problem, beginning with a European Union commitment. Nevertheless, the issue also involves the United States, which, as Hillary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation Alec Ross recently pointed out, tweeting Minister Terzi’s article as a “useful point of view on the Arab revolutions from the other side of the Mediterranean”.

Other themes that particularly concern the Americans are, obviously, Iran, Syria, the transition in Afghanistan, stability in Asia, starting with the North Korean threat, cyber-security and the fight against terrorism. Human rights and minority and religious freedoms remain entwined with all the others, but Clinton also wished to underscore the importance of women in fostering peace and international equilibrium. In this context the successful election of Aung San Suu Kyi recently in Burma, where Terzi will visit on 24 April, takes on special significance.