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Ms Del Re: “Alongside the Lebanese: cooperation and dialogue avoid radicalism” (Avvenire)

Emanuela Claudia Del Re is in the middle of coordinating Italian aid to Lebanon. Not only because she is Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (M5s). As an expert sociologist in international politics, she has followed for several years, since 2010, a reconciliation project in the Lebanon’s Tripoli. And she is confident about the ability of this people to react, always on the edge between life and tragedy.

“We need everything” is the request from Beirut. Two hospitals, the grain reserves, have been destroyed. What will Italy do?

On the very evening of the explosion I expressed my willingness to send aid for health care. I activated the General Directorate and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. Premier Hassan Diab made a desperate call to friendly countries. In addition to the tragedy of victims, there is the problem of 300,000 homeless and the destroyed port that could cause serious problems for the supply. There is a great demand for glass, destroyed by air displacement. Within the framework of the European Civil Protection Mechanism we are sending eight and a half tonnes of surgical kits. Civil Protection will send the teams specialising in biological chemical radiological nuclear power.

You have worked for a long time in Lebanon in recent years. What did you learn about this complex country?

I have had the privilege of working in the field in some areas of Lebanon’s Tripoli, in Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, close neighbourhoods that fought each other, the first Sunni and the second Alawite. Sectarian conflicts that have deeply afflicted the population and produced a state of mind of serious prostration. The buildings are still riddled with bullets, there are barbed wire and tanks in the streets. Despite progress, the heavy economic crisis and the chronic lack of electricity had already driven people away from institutions, due to the lack of prospects. But Lebanon has great intellectual resources. There is an effervescent, prepared and participating youth. I am frightened by this new setback in the virtuous path of a people that has welcomed the largest number of Syrian refugees.

Since 2006, Italian soldiers have cooperated with Unifil, with over 1,000 men. But we have been in Lebanon since long before that.

It is a presence that makes us proud. Essential for the respect of the ceasefire and the Blue Line, our Armed Forces now join the emergency service. The respect Italy has earned in the field, so much so that it is leading this mission, is also due to Italian development cooperation in Lebanon. Now the Italian command of Sector West has provided two medical teams to help with search and rescue.

Lebanon is divided between Maronites and Muslims, between militias and institutions. It has welcomed one million Syrians. Now there’s Covid-19. Is there a risk of a fundamentalist change?

The country was already in a serious economic, political situation. It exports very little and imports almost everything. Years and years of exhausting conflicts have divided the population, despite the paths of reconciliation animated by Lebanese and international civil society. Today I believe that the international community must unite around Lebanon to avoid radical actions and exploitations. Cohesive international aid will be appreciated by the Lebanese people. All positive forces must be activated, such as interreligious dialogue, a driving force capable of restoring social reaction. It is a country of great culture, which has emerged from many crises. It must remain a beacon of democracy in the Middle East.

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