Today, meeting in Rome, are the representatives of 23 Countries of the anti-ISIS coalition. The host is Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, who yesterday took stock of the situation with U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. In December the United States had asked Italy to take part in the air strikes.
Why is there some reluctance on the part of Italy?
«No reluctance. Italy is one of the 5 or 6 countries in the world that is most engaged in the fight against Daesh. After the meetings in London and Paris, the summit of this restricted group meets in Rome to relaunch the coalition’s actions».
How is the anti-ISIS campaign doing?
«In 2015 Daesh was deprived of 40 percent of its territory in Iraq and 20 percent in Syria. Communications between Raqqa and Mosul have been practically cut off. We will see if we can successfully put the liberation of Mosul on the agenda of the next few months. There is also a political issue: supporting the Iraqi government and its efforts to stabilise the areas liberated. Some situations, for example Tikrit, are more promising. Others, like Ramadi, are still critical. In Iraq, it is not enough to defeat Daesh militarily. We need to cooperate with the government so that the liberation can be matched by the capacity to stabilise and manage the city inclusively, especially including the Sunni communities without which sectarian conflicts would risk undermining it all».
What is our role?
«We are leading the training of Iraqi police forces in charge of re-establishing control over the liberated areas. We are trying to do this in coordination with the efforts of other Countries. We have trained over 2,000 Kurdish Peshmerga and we are continuing to do it».
Are jihadists moving to Libya?
«In fact, there is a risk that the military defeats suffered in Iraq and partly also in Syria might induce some Daesh militants to move to Libya. We must take this risk into consideration».
Italy has announced that it will send 450 men to defend the Mosul Dam. When are they scheduled to leave?
«Maintenance work is due to begin in late spring. It will last for a long time and this is why it needs the presence of Italian troops, whose task is not to fight but to defend. We are now defining the assignments for the companies and the engagement of our troops».
Some claim that ISIS can be wiped out in a short period of time. Others instead believe that we should let others fight this war. What is our stand on this point?
«One thing are the special forces, trainers and aircraft which all countries are deploying in varying degrees. Another thing are troops on the ground, which is not being taken into consideration by anyone for the time being. The situation is very complex, especially in Syria, and that is why Kerry rightly recalled that the solution can only be diplomatic, setting in motion a transition that might lead to override Assad’s regime. We must act quickly; with every week that goes by the humanitarian catastrophe gets worse».
Libya’s national unity government has not yet been legitimated by a parliamentary vote. Is time running short for us to intervene?
«Time is running short for stabilising Libya, and we are in no hurry to intervene; this applies both to us and to the international community. The urgency instead lies in defining the composition of the new government so that it might be supported by Parliament and finally kick off the stabilisation process. The Presidential Council is now called on to define the new proposal for the cabinet, which will probably be submitted to a parliamentary vote on Monday. It is up to the Libyans to decide. These days are crucial and I would like to renew my appeal to all Libyan parties to come to an agreement, above all in the interest of the Libyan people, who have extraordinary potential and resources. And especially knowing that, on the basis of this agreement, the international community would then be ready to lend a hand by responding to the requests that the government might address us».
France has warned of the risk of jihadists being infiltrated on boats, in Lampedusa...
«We’ve spent the last two or three years coping with exceptional migration flows and maybe many other European countries have only had to do so more recently. We have always been aware of the risk of infiltrations although this theoretical possibility for the moment is not matched by an alarm based on specific information. Therefore, a great deal of vigilance but no alarmism. If Europe does not find the strength to come to a shared response on migration flows, it risks losing itself. By continuing to keep its eyes shut on the characteristics of migration flows and on the need for a common response, the flows can even create tensions, pretexts for closing borders and ultimately a domino effect that will hinder us from managing them in an orderly fashion, as we Italians would like, and instead lead to the failure of a pillar of the European Union: the free movement of people. European efforts must be shared on all fronts: so yes to a common and permanent effort on external borders, on the right of asylum, on managing repatriations. Greece must do its share but if we continue to ask Athens to solve, on behalf of all of Europe, the problem of the almost one million migrants who have entered the country, well, I don’t think it will get us very far».
Sweden would like to repatriate 80,000 immigrants....
«The announcement refers to the medium term. But we should not follow the latest announcement by a European minister. European rules already provide for migrants to be repatriated to safe countries, those whose citizens are not entitled to asylum. Sensation-provoking announcements do not solve the problems. Closing borders and seizing assets from refugees contradict our European principles».
What is really at stake in the challenge between Italy and Germany?
«We have a different horizon in respect to the EU’s economic policies. There is no doubt that there is a difference in the position of Italy and Germany, due to the different stress that we put on the need to grow and invest rather than on rigorously applying budget rules. What is new is that Italy was the “sick man of Europe” a few years ago and now its economy is recovering, more or less in line with the other Eurozone countries, and therefore is now fully qualified to say that we need an expansive phase. At the same time, with Germany we share the same horizon on many strategic foreign policy issues and on migration policies. What keeps these two horizons together? It is, and must be, the awareness that Italy and Germany are two major players in the EU scenario and therefore the relationship between these two countries, both when they think differently and when they are in sync, are fundamental for the future of the Union».
What was left by the visit by Iran, apart from the incident of the censored statues?
«Apart from the bitter taste left by that incident, what remains is the substance of the political and economic relations that will be revived during the upcoming weeks with more business missions in Iran as well as by the visits of the ministers of infrastructures and agriculture. The post-sanction opportunities offered are being seized not only by Italian companies but by the companies of half the world. However, we know we have a small competitive advantage: a tradition of cooperation that has been ongoing for close to sixty years».