(valid only the actual speech delivered)
Dear friends, distinguished guests,
It is a great pleasure for me to host you here. I am very grateful to President Fiamma Nirenstein for her great contribution to the organisation of this event. I know that some of you have had a long day of travel, and that all of you will have a full day tomorrow. And I know that not everyone is accustomed to late Italian dinner. But let’s hope that my remarks are sufficiently short.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This meeting is an opportunity to confirm our sincere friendship to the Jewish people and Israel. Italy will always be committed to support Israel security and the security and freedom of the Jewish people. We feel a political and moral responsibility. With Israel, we share the fundamental values which are at the basis of our common Judeo-Christian civilization. We admire Jewish Nobel laureates, we love Jewish literature and artistic sensitivity. We admire Israel’s science, knowledge and technologies. Israel is also our partner in encouraging the consolidation of the rule of law and democracy in the Middle East, since it is a vivid example of a well-functioning democracy: a country where Jews, Christians and Muslims live together, freely professing their different religions.
We will always oppose those who boycott Israel or take anti-Semitic stances. You will never be left to stand alone whenever security and fundamental rights are threatened. In that case the attitude of the international community should not be the one of indifferent bystander. Elie Wiesel rightly said that “indifference is more dangerous than anger and hatred… indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor – never his victim”.
Italy has demonstrated this commitment, taking clear positions in the international fora. Let me recall just two examples. First, when Italy took action within the EU in order to classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation. And second, the UN Durban conference against racism, when we decided not to attend, because of its biased connotation against Israel.
At difficult times our empathy was accrued by the fact that Italians have themselves the threat of terrorism. Yet we cannot lower our guard, as proved by the heinous attack against an Italian CEO, Adinolfi, wounded by a terrorist group. But let me add that never have I experienced the same shocking and moving feelings as during the second Intifada, when I served as Italian Ambassador to Israel: a period of brutal terror attacks against innocent people. Not even children were spared.
The horrible act of terror at the Jewish school of Toulouse reminded us that Europe is not immune to fanaticism and insane violence either. So, more than ever, our common force of conscience is essential. That is why this initiative is so important. We need to react to these waves of cruel intolerance.
To remember is important, but it is not enough. It has been said that remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture, awareness without action changes nothing. To encourage awareness, together with the Mayor of Rome we have established an Observatory on religious freedom.
When anti-Semitism becomes the flag post of those who call for the destruction of Israel with hatred and arrogance, our response needs to be firm. At international level Italy is working with determination to prevent Iran from developing its nuclear project for a military purpose. The security of all – and not only of Israel – is at stake. It is essential to increase the international pressure, involving the Arab countries sharing our concerns about the dangerous impact of a nuclear Iran on regional stability. We want Iran to implement all the relevant UN Resolutions, returning in good faith and without preconditions to the negotiating table.
Italy is bearing the burden of this strategy. The sanctions mean additional costs for our economy, in terms of energy security and reduced market access. But this is the right thing to do, since it reflects our responsibility towards global security and peace. Now that the dialogue has resumed in Istanbul, we shall keep our engagement, by monitoring the implementation of sanctions and pursuing a comprehensive and negotiated solution. The “dual track” approach can be successful only if declarations are followed by deeds. The next round of talks in Baghdad should lead to a clear process, convincing Iran to halt the military dimension of its nuclear program. At the same time, all options remain on the table.
Over the last eighteen months most of the assumptions on the Middle East have radically changed. The Arab Spring has put everyone to test. A profound transformation which will have long-lasting effects in the whole region. Italy is convinced that meeting people’s aspirations for human dignity and freedom is the most effective way to ensure stability. However, we must also be aware of deep uncertainties. Among them, the greatest is the risks of extremism, intolerance, violation of human and minorities rights, including religious freedom. What worries us most is the human tragedy developing in Syria, where ten of thousand of civilians have been brutally killed by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. The Annan Plan is today the “least worse” option to stop such a bloodshed. Italy is supporting it actively and we have already deployed a number of italian observers as part of the UN monitoring mission. However, within the international community and even among the Arab League countries, there is a growing skepticism over the chance of success of the plan. Unacceptable violations of the ceasefire continue. A couple of days ago, a terrible bomb explosion killed many people in Damascus, and another bomb blast occurred in the proximity of a convoy of UN observers. The regime bears most of the responsibility for the violation of the cease-fire.
“Damascus has seen all that has ever occurred on earth, and still she lives,” wrote Mark Twain after visiting Syria’s capital. But there was something that Damascus had not yet seen, and that, even in her worst nightmares, she could never have dreamt of seeing: a regime brutally killing its own people. Freedom has prevailed in history and should in the end prevail in Syria too. But at what cost for the Syrians? The cruel and violent repression adopted by the regime creates a very real risk that the country will be driven to unparalleled catastrophe, to the most disastrous of wars. Our patience is not unlimited and the Annan Plan is not open-ended: I hope that the Syrian regime is aware of that and will make the right calculations.
I would like to conclude with some remarks on the Middle East peace process. Only the two-state solution can guarantee Israel’s long-term peace and security. We stressed it over and over again: the only way to achieve peace is through direct negotiations. At the same time, we do hope that the Palestinians will take advantage of the great opportunity of the new Israeli national unity government to engage in serious and direct negotiations with Israel.
Italy will continue to play its part, supporting the Quartet proposal and working to enable the European Union to speak with a single voice. We need to focus on the year-end objective set out in the Quartet’s declaration. These messages were conveyed by Prime Minister Monti to the two leaderships during his recent visit to the region.
If the peace process is successfully pursued, courage and vision are required from all sides. It will not be easy, but let me recall the words of Prime Minister Rabin: “For Israel there is no path that is without pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war.” We are keen of supporting Israel in having these farsighted words made true.