“It is now my pleasure to deliver Italy’s national statement.
The focus of today’s Security Council meeting is on an issue of worldwide implications. The Mediterranean is a small sea, almost the size of a large lake when seen on a map. However, it is where much of our global security is at stake. It is a fact that a great number of the world’s crises originate in the Mediterranean basin — the spread of Da’esh, Libya’s instability, the Syrian war, new tension in Lebanon, the dangers posed by foreign terrorist fighters, the fragile situation in the Western Balkans, the migration crisis, and the list goes on and on.
Although the Mediterranean amounts to only approximately 1 per cent of the world’s surface, a significant part of our global stability and security is played out in that Sea. Italy, located at the centre of the Mediterranean, is bearing the brunt of that insecurity. Our strategy has been to combine solidarity and security. For example, in the course of the migration crisis, we have proved that it is possible to save more than half a million lives at sea and, at the same time, counter fundamentalism and extremists who despise the values of our open and democratic society.
However, we need to do more together as global partners to control the routes that today could be taken by foreign terrorist fighters, following the defeat of Da’esh in Iraq and in Syria. The global coalition against Da’esh has neutralized the safe havens in which terrorists could mastermind attacks against all of us. Italy has done its part as the second-largest contributor to that coalition in Iraq. We have trained almost 30,000 military and police units, but we must remain ever-vigilant against the spread of Da’esh in the Mediterranean and the concrete risk of foreign terrorist fighters returning to North Africa and to Europe.
Therefore, we must deepen information-sharing among our intelligence agencies in order to identify jihadists and halt them in their quest for destruction. Our commitment against terror must be extended far and wide, including in the Sahel, where instability directly affects the security of the Mediterranean. In Libya, after being forced out of Sirte, Da’esh remains a threat, with its roots also in the Sahel. That too is a reason that Libya remains a key challenge for the Security Council. However, in order to further emphasize the moral burden of improving the lives of refugees and migrants who are exploited by criminal organizations in Libya, we must take on greater shared responsibility, with more humanitarian assistance and long-term development.
On the political process in Libya, I will not repeat what I said yesterday in this Chamber (see S/PV.8104). However, I will stress once again that it is crucial for all of us to support the action plan of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. If we miss that chance, all of us, not only Libyans, will pay a heavy price.
The tragic story of Syria should be a reminder to the Libyans that a negotiated solution is vital, and that there is no military short cut. Regional tensions and brutal actions by the Al-Assad regime have made peace in Syria difficult for far too long. Our key objective should always remain the same — to support the political process led by the United Nations. We call on the countries around this table and on the entire United Nations membership to redouble their efforts to encourage a genuine commitment by the Syrian parties to engage in negotiations.
We are also concerned by the latest developments in Lebanon, where Italy has invested deeply in peace and stability, especially in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon peacekeeping mission. We call on all parties to respect the independence and integrity of Lebanon’s democratic institutions. There is no role in Lebanon for any foreign forces or militaries other than the legitimate security forces of the Lebanese State.
In an interconnected world where stability and security are tested by gross violations of human rights and a humanitarian crisis, it is the responsibility of the international community to react. Our reaction must be built upon more political dialogue and more security cooperation, as well as more cultural collaboration. Italy considers culture to be a key pillar of sustainable development. In order to create lasting political solutions in the Mediterranean, we are convinced that we need to invest in human capital, especially in the education of youth. Preserving cultural heritage is also a way to tackle extremism. That is why Italy, together with France, promoted resolution 2347 (2017), which was the first of its kind on the destruction of cultural heritage in armed conflict. Terrorists who destroy cultural sites want to erases peoples’ identities. We should therefore always protect such rich and moderate identities, which have shaped a common culture of dialogue and mutual respect in the Mediterranean for millenniums.
In the interest of the security of the Mediterranean, it is also crucial to defend religious freedom and protect religious minorities. If religious freedom is protected, the rule of law and security can be asserted. If such protection is absent, the consequence is instability. For fanatics, religion is only a pretext. They want to hold God hostage to their evil ideologies. Therefore, we must do more to separate those who join their hands in prayer from those who take up arms.
We also recognize that more women have to be protagonists in the Mediterranean. In October, in Rome, we launched the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network. It is important to strengthen preventive diplomacy through the greater involvement of women in mediation.
The Mediterranean may be troubled by numerous challenges, but it is also a sea of many opportunities. It is a market of 500 million consumers. It makes up 10 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). That GDP grows at approximately 4.5 per cent annually. It is also where 20 per cent of maritime traffic and 30 per cent of the oil trade take place.
Will the Mediterranean region evolve into a meeting place of cultures that trade freely and cross-fertilize civilizations as it did once before? Or will it devolve into a region of terror, social despair and unrest? The answer very much depends upon the willingness and capacity of the international community to strongly confront all security challenges and simultaneously promote a pluralistic society that does not marginalize its youth, women or minorities. Those are the values that inspired the Charter of the United Nations. They are values that still ensure stability and development all across the world. In a region that connects Europe, Africa and Asia, the dividends of peace and security are huge and global. It is up to us to seize them.
I now resume my function as President of the Council.”