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«We suffered no pressure to participate in the raids against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. For the time being, we have given only political support» (Corriere della Sera)

intervista Ministro
intervista Ministro

Minister Tajani, did Italy suffer any pressure to participate in the military offensive of the United States and Great Britain against Houthi rebels in Yemen?

«No pressure. We signed a political declaration on security in the Red Sea – which is the most important, and which France for example did not sign – but we did not sign the one on offensive armed interventions. On the one hand, it was a mandatory choice, given that – pursuant to our Constitution – Parliament’s involvement and a Parliamentary passage would be needed first. On the other hand, that choice was the result of a political belief, shared with the Prime Minister, with the Minister (of Defense) Crosetto and with our armed forces: there is an escalation risk which we absolutely want to avoid».

Yet the fact remains that at least Great Britain has urged us to join the coalition of which some European States, including Denmark and Germany, are also part.

«That was a few weeks ago, long before the attacks. Compared to the military reaction of three days ago, we were informed many hours in advance, given that we are allies and we have a military ship in those same waters. We have so far only given our political, not military support, if by this word we mean the offensive use of force planned for deterrent purposes. I spoke to US Secretary of State Blinken when the United States defined the declaration authorizing the use of force of some States and the Americans are perfectly aware of our position».

Yet the Houthi rebels’ terrorist and military attacks also damage commercial traffic to Italy and affect our economic interests. Is it not enough not to confine ourselves to merely protecting our ships?

«We are in favour of an enlarged, more structured European mission. We asked Commissioner Borrell to put this very topic on the agenda. A European mission different from the current one, even with different rules of engagement, in which France would also participate, is a short-term objective».

Do different rules of engagement mean authorising targeted attacks against the Houthis?

«No, it means broadening the geographical and response scope of European military ships, but an agreement is always needed within the EU, with a whole series of subsequent technical agreements. If these were targeted military actions, authorization from our Parliament would be required, but we need to proceed in an orderly manner and we do not currently foresee this happening».

Our troops participating in the UNIFIL mission provide a security buffer zone between Israel and the Lebanon. Do you foresee changes in their territorial deployment, a different perimeter of operations?
«Our troops depend on the UN. They are included in the UN chain of command. We also discussed it with Secretary of State Blinken to try to achieve a de-escalation in every way possible».

Military and financial aid to Ukraine is waning. What is Italy doing to prevent Ukraine from being militarily exposed?
«We have just launched the eighth aid package. We are doing the utmost within our possibilities. We are not holding back. Our participation in peacekeeping missions, together with our financial commitment, is very vast, ranging from the Balkans to the Lebanon and Africa. But we are not an economic giant».

What do you think about the trial for genocide against Israel started in The Hague?

«In our opinion, the prerequisite for such a trial does not exist, which means that there is no data that authorizes us to say that a State like Israel has knowingly carried out actions to eliminate an ethnic group from the face of the earth. Another matter is whether there were actions and measures that could have been arranged and modulated differently: we have always recommended Israel to try to avoid retaliations involving the civilian population, excessively aggressive retaliations. For our part, we are doing our utmost to help the Palestinian refugees and the civilian population, but let us never forget that while Israel’s reaction must be proportionate, Hamas continues to shield itself with its own people».

What do you reply to the opposition parties that request you to report to Parliament on the situation in the Red Sea?
«I am always available for a constructive discussion».

If Prime Minister Meloni did not run for the European elections would you be relieved?
«It would be absolutely irrelevant, but I think we will decide it together. To those who bring the stability of the majority into play I reply that it has nothing to do with it».

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