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Terzi:«Middle East – Time to resume the peace process» (L’Eco di Bergamo)

Italy voted yes on the Palestinian request to become a non-member observer State in the UN General Assembly. We spoke about it with Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi.

Mr. Minister, what happens now?

«The number one priority now is to resume the peace process and the stabilisation of the Middle East, which is an absolute necessity to which everyone must be committed. The countries of Europe were divided over the UN vote but agree on being instrumental in giving impetus to the peace process. Italy and the EU countries want to make a constructive contribution to strengthening peace in the region. As for the UN General Assembly vote, it was certainly a pondered decision: the Italian government’s intention was expressed by the council of ministers and clarified in a press release by the Premier. At this point the Palestinians must commit to sitting down at the negotiating table without preconditions, and not use the General Assembly success as leverage in launching international criminal court proceedings in an effort to put further legal and political pressure on one of the two parties to the talks. Necessary, above all, is a commitment to see the whole of the Security Council resolutions as an essential key to carrying the negotiations forward».

The Mediterranean is a crucial region for us, but given the crisis in the area we cannot help but be concerned.

«The use in Syria of weapons banned by the international community, what’s more on children, is an additional and intolerable acceleration in the level of attacks by Assad militias against civilians that began with ethnic cleansing in the cities. This is a horrible civil war; nevertheless, major developments have come about for the post-Assad period: in Doha the opposition coalesced for the first time along the lines of an inclusiveness that Italy encourages, producing political and command structures that should also impede penetration by Jihadist forces and increase military effectiveness».

What is Italy’s role?

«Along with its main European partners, the United States and the Gulf countries, Italy is strongly committed to supporting this process of building an alternative to the regime. My appointment of a special envoy for the Middle East at the start of my mandate allowed for direct action. We are among the more restricted consultation groups and are in contact with various levels of the opposition. We have hosted numerous meetings in Rome; to cite an example, I met a few days ago with 30 activists from Damascus and Homs participating in a training course. The real point is the position of Russia, who the threat of civil war now involves».

Let’s go on to Gaza and the decisive role of Egypt, where internal opposition to the leader is, nevertheless, growing.

«For the second time, President Morsi took advantage of a favourable external moment to redesign things internally, first with the military and then with the judiciary. It is fundamental to keep his role in the peace process in mind and support him, given that radical forces could now lead to a serious destabilisation of the area».

The risks include religious intolerance, a theme that particularly concerns you.

«It is impossible to deny it. I am thinking of the Christians killed in Nigeria. I will be speaking soon with the Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal Onaiyekan, to personally congratulate him and to underscore the attention with which the Italian government is following the situation. We need African countries’s support for inter-faith dialogue. As a follow-up to the UN’s initiative with Jordan, we are organizing an international forum to be held in February, and in Brussels have posed the issue as a European Union agenda priority».

As a member of the European Weimar Plus group made up of the foreign and defence ministers of Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Poland, you launched the “More Europe” initiative for coordination on defence policies. What does that consist of?

«There needs to be a move toward a common defence industry market, keeping in mind that Europe must be able to effectively cooperate internally in order to promote its external security, from foreign missions to the surveillance of possible crisis situations touching on neighbouring countries, to humanitarian missions and mediation in situations such as those in Mali and Somalia. The first step is to gain access to the least costly and most efficient advanced technologies at a time when national governments have dwindling resources and crises are becoming increasingly multidimensional. Defence is a crucial theme, for example, in relations with Russia, and we have repeatedly underscored in recent months that the indivisibility of security makes cooperation with Russia indispensable. The relationship between NATO and Russia is one we consider strategic and important. I have spoken of this in recent months in the meetings I have had in Moscow with Medvedev and my colleague Lavrov, recalling the “spirit of Pratica di Mare”, and I will reiterate it at the NATO-Russia Council meeting next week in Brussels».

Meanwhile the U.S. continues with Obama. A country that you know very well.

«Obama’s second term opens new prospects for G8 and the G20 collaboration on new trade regulations and jumpstarting growth; a new way of understanding the transatlantic relationship and, in particular, relations with the European Union. My recent years of experience between the two shores of the Atlantic have taught me that the United States wants a solid and cohesive Europe with a single voice and a high international profile. That is why, in my contacts over recent months with Washington and with Hillary Clinton, I have underscored the Monti government’s strong contribution to seeing Europe out of the crisis».

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