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Gentiloni: “We won’t accept an agreement at any cost”

“We won’t accept an agreement at any cost”, says Gentiloni.

“Signing would change Tehran’s role in the Middle East”

From our correspondent in Amman

“We’re in favour of a good agreement in Lausanne but that doesn’t mean supporting the Iranian positions”. Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni speaks about the negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear capability after his meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan.

Top of the agenda for Gentiloni’s visit are the crises in Libya and Yemen, the battle against ISIS, support for refugees and the need to resume the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But the news from Switzerland on the difficulties in the talks between Tehran and the 5+1 group prompt the head of the Farnesina to reflect on events. “Italy hopes that a good agreement can be reached”, where “good” also means “going beyond the nuclear aspect”, underscores Gentiloni. He explains that “it would have positive effects on the development of Iran’s position in various theatres of crisis, from the commitment against ISIS to Yemen”.

Gentiloni’s considerations bring together the two dimensions of the negotiations in Lausanne. One is the need to redefine the Iranian nuclear programme, on which point he explains that “the 5+1 Group will not accept an agreement at any cost”, but will only sign if tangible results are on the table. And the second is the possibility of bringing Iran to “change its role” in the theatre of regional crises.

Mosul and Yemen are two particular points stressed by the minister. On Mosul, Iran is pressing on Iraq to attack the town, occupied by ISIS, with Shiite troops. The US, like the EU, fears that this is the wrong tactic and will push the Sunnis towards ISIS. In Yemen, the shadow of Iran behind the Houthi rebels was the trigger that led to the Saudi-led Arab intervention.

The mere mention of the geographical locations of these crises demonstrates the attention paid by Gentiloni to the position of the Sunni side, to which Jordan belongs, taking part in the raids against ISIS in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen.

The convergence of views between the sovereign and minister Gentiloni was also confirmed by their comments during the meeting in the Royal Palace. King Abdullah illustrated the importance of having created a “coalition against the renegades”, as he defines the ISIS terrorists. Because, as the Jordanian foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, explains, “it is our war. A war that must be fought by us, as Arab countries, in the front line with military operations and a cultural and religious offensive to delegitimise them”.

The question is whether the “joint Arab force” created by the Arab League could be deployed in future in crisis areas like Libya. Gentiloni is non-committal but says that “the Arab countries are observing the Rabat talks with interest. However, if they fail, Amman would start afresh from the UN resolution on Libya, focusing on combating terrorism”.