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Mogherini: « Europe could approve sanctions Monday, Putin risks international isolation» (Il Messaggero)

Federico Mogherini still recalls her not so distant stint as student representative at the “Lucrezio Caro” lyceum where she insisted with her classmates on foreign policy as a co-management enterprise. Now those hot dossiers are on the desk of the 41-year-old newly appointed minister for foreign affairs, beginning with Ukraine.

Isn’t the threat of phased-in sanctions a somewhat weak response to Russia’s soft take-over of Crimea?

«I would not exactly say soft! The next 3 to 4 days are crucial. I am optimistic by nature, and I do not consider a negotiated solution a closed option. US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian foreign minister Lavrov are meeting today in London to make a final attempt. Certainly, a referendum Sunday in Crimea [on its de facto annexation to Russia, editor’s note] will be a point of no return and the situation could precipitate».

But Crimea is already lost, everyone knows that. You held a conference call today with the other European foreign ministers.

«A new cold war or open war in Europe is unimaginable, The Russian Federation is a key EU partner and a member of the G8 itself. But if the referendum is held and Russia does not respect Ukrainian sovereignty, the Monday European Council will do what it said it would, approve a series of measures that include targeted sanctions. In any case, the military option is to be ruled out, as it would only lead to uncontrollable escalation. Russia is a partner to NATO in Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. The risk for Moscow is international isolation. It is also in Russia’s interest to avoid the situation precipitating. We are calling on Kiev to recognise the rights and autonomy of minorities and religions there. Ukraine is not a monolith».

At Monday’s Italo-German summit will you be able to convince Merkel of the goodwill behind Renzi’s manoeuvre?

«I don’t think there’ll be any need to convince her. Investing more and thereby freeing up resources in order to generate jobs, growth and an internal market is in the interests of all of Europe, not only ours. The fact that the SPD is part of the German government can help».

How did it feel it to be in contact with your counterparts?

«Some were friends already; my Bulgarian and Romanian colleagues were with me in youth organisations. The Canadian complained that I had stolen top place from him in the G8 Young ».

What foreign languages do you speak?

«English and French and I understand Spanish. It’s also a question of generation».

A photo of you with Arafat was lifted from your blog, along with a post minimising the Palestinian rockets against Israel.

«That was 15 years ago; I was also photographed with Israel’s Peres. I have been dealing with these questions for a long time now. I didn’t see what they quoted, but I doubt that my post was conceived in the terms that were reported».

How is Italy placed in terms of Israel and the United States?

«We have always had a close relationship, not only in diplomatic terms but also of friendship, with the Palestinian people and with the State of Israel, and a stubborn desire to find a solution to the conflict. I spoke about this with Kerry in Rome. The latest rocket launches from Gaza are a deep concern».

Better a pro-Israel Berlusconi or pro-Hezbollah D`Alema?

«I will be going to both Israel and Ramallah as a sign of Italy’s support for peace process efforts – particularly those of the US – and will carry our full solidarity with both the Palestinian people and Authority and the Israeli State».

Another hot issue: the Marines. Isn’t there a contradiction between our appeals to the Supreme Court and our rejection of Indian jurisdiction?

«In fact, the “petition” against the use of the NIA [Indian FBI, editor’s note] was presented by the Marines themselves, even though with our knowledge. The Supreme Court had decided not to apply the SUA Act [anti-terrorism law, editor’s note] while maintaining its instrument, the NIA. It is important to point out these contradictions. We are doing everything to avoid coming to trial in India and to advance the wise international arbitration that has been pursed over recent months».

But New Delhi has to agree.

«I have spoken with foreign minister Kurshid, discussions are ongoing and open, which is not a solution but neither is it negative. We are working at various levels. The first is our unwavering human solidarity with the Marines themselves and their families; the second is to contest the trial and move toward arbitration involving the UN, NATO and bilateral channels; the third lies in building more national and government unity than there has been in the past».

Do you rule out the Marines’ remaining on the Embassy premises in order to avoid trial?

«We are working on things. I cannot comment on or predict decisions on things that haven’t happened. We are aiming for results; imagining possible scenarios can be counter-productive».

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