During the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs’ official visit to Chile and Colombia, the news was released that Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli, volunteer workers and founders of an Italian NGO, were abducted in late July is the area of Aleppo in Syria. “We immediately activated all channels and have been in contact with the families. As always in these cases, it is essential that efforts be carried out with the maximum discretion. What happened one year ago with the abduction of Father Dall’Oglio reminds us of how dramatic the situation in Syria continues to be”. In the morning, Federica Mogherini leafed through “La Stampa” [Italian daily newspaper, ndr] with an interview with John Kerry.
Madame Minister, although he expressed his personal appreciation to you, did John Kerry not pull you into it when he urged Europe to erect a wall against Putin?
«I read Kerry’s words with great interest, which covered a range of topics. I underscored one passage in the interview, in particular, that represents precisely the sense of our efforts in recent months regarding Ukraine: when Kerry says that we must try to bring both parties to the conflict to the negotiating table, and reduce the tensions with Russia and the separatists. Sanctions and political pressure are a very strong action when exercised by uniformly by the EU, the US and the other countries of the G7. We have all said from the start that there was no alternative to a political solution».
However, Kerry very significantly says that the solution to crises is not always diplomatic, and in this differs with Italy. Is this a difference that has carried weight in the crisis in relations with Moscow?
«Absolutely not. Italy has always agreed profoundly with the United States’ stance, particularly in the NATO approach and relative to relations with Russia. Over the past months, and still today. What Italy rules out is a military intervention, which would be devastating, primarily to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, as well as to the future of our relations. It is a prospect that is not on the table however, and the point is to strengthen assurances to those countries bordering on Russia through NATO. Article 5 of the NATO treaty is quite relevant and, along with all the other allies, we have it well in mind: the system of relations with the Russian Federation resulting from the diplomatic efforts of recent decades is in crisis at this moment, and calls for some rethinking».
On whose part?
«Moscow’s part. The point is – and Kerry also says this – whether and how Putin concretely backs up the intentions underwritten in countless accords of recent months, which US diplomacy also facilitated. Increased sanctions and pressure are intended to serve this purpose. We want to loosen tensions with Russia, but the point remains whether Russia’s behaviour will back up its own words».
But Putin seems to be doing the contrary, you’ve seen Azerbaijan and Armenia, he’s sanctioned the sanctioners. How long is it going to take to resolve the Ukraine crisis?
«The point missing in the discussion – but which Kerry underscored in his interview – is the support that we are going to be capable of offering the Ukraine transition. This is going to be our true field of responsibility: support for painful but necessary economic reforms, given that the country was already at risk of default; for a revised energy and supply plan; and for the country’s democratic transition. It would be best if these steps could be taken in a climate devoid of conflict with Russia, which is, unfortunately, not the scenario we are in, but it is on these that Ukraine’s future depends».
The US Secretary of State brought a great deal of his own political weight to the Israeli-Palestinian talks; how is the United States experiencing the war in Gaza?
«I must say that I have found not only Kerry himself, but the American Administration as a whole, deeply engaged in reviving that dialogue, and this was by no means a sure thing given the bitterness of the conflict. The role of the US has been very important; it has ensured and continues to ensure a painstakingly built international framework that has been appreciated by all parties from what I was given to understand on my recent visit to Israel and Palestine. And it has been fundamental because, without a reference point like the US and the UN, those regional actors would be very unlikely to reach a solution. Kerry’s hard work and stubbornness over these past weeks has been essential».
Europe would not have managed on its own?
«Historically, efforts at dialogue in the Middle East have needed US leadership. Europe has certainly played a major role, not least in supporting Cairo’s mediation attempts, but I am not sure that a truce would have been managed without the efforts of Washington. This is a result, of course, that needs consolidation, and is not a point of arrival at a possible real solution, the points of which Kerry touched upon in his negotiations».
You are officially a candidate for the post of European High Representative for Foreign Policy. Do you feel supported by the US?
«Our relations are excellent. But I do not consider it appropriate to imagine an American endorsement regarding an entirely European dynamic».