“With 3 weeks to go until the elections, Turkey has been hit by a horrific attack. On behalf of Italy, I extend Italy’s sorrow and condolences to the Turkish government and people. Our sympathy goes out to the victims, who were taking part in a demonstration for peace and democracy and against the terrorist violence that has been causing bloodshed in the country since the attack in Suruc. Turkey is our ally – we have an interest in its stability and in peaceful elections there. It is clear that any resumption of open conflict between the PKK and the government would not help the stabilisation of the country”.
Minister Gentiloni, it’s not yet possible to know with any certainty, but we need to consider who the perpetrators were and where the responsibility lies. Could IS have had a hand in this?
“Terrorist violence harms both the government and the democratic opposition forces like Demirtas’s HDP, which had organised the demonstration. The first organisation to suffer is the HDP itself, a party that could provide a peaceful outlet for the Kurdish cause”.
At the same time, the flames of a potential new intifada are being rekindled among the Palestinians.
“We’re facing a very grave crisis that confirms how mistaken it is to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as marginal. It is irresponsible of Hamas to incite a new intifada. Everyone, starting with the Israeli government, should be helping achieve a de-escalation. The lack of even a glimmer of hope in the talks has created a very dangerous climate. If Da’esh [ed’s note: the Arab acronym of IS] managed to raise its flag over the historic Israeli-Palestinian conflict then the consequences would be incalculable. In the Palestinian territories and throughout the Arab world”.
How can the talks between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority be kick-started?
“In New York we made some progress. A group of European and Arab countries met, along with the Americans, to pick up the negotiating process and cool down the reactions on the ground. The involvement of the EU and countries like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia is not an instrument to impose something on Israel and Palestine. It is intended to reassure them of the guarantees, from all sides, for the talks. I repeat: if Da’esh takes ownership of this symbol too then it would be akin to lighting the fuse to unadulterated dynamite on another crisis front”.
Let’s turn to the crisis that you’re focusing on directly: the crisis in Libya. The UN has just announced the government of national unity. Will the new government manage, on its own, to be properly installed in Tripoli?
“It’s important that the negotiators have reached this agreement, and that this ‘Annex 1’ with the list of the initial members of the Government of National Accord has been produced. And the force with which the countries of the international community have stressed the need to move forwards is important too. But there’s still a long way to go”.
Many Arab countries in the region have chosen a side or a faction and kept it on a war footing against their enemies. Are you ready to punish anyone who sabotages the government?
“The success of the government of national unity depends on the Libyans. We can help it but it’s the Libyans who will bring it to life. Any potential saboteurs would be isolated by a very clear dynamic. The international actors have come together and are pushing in one single direction. This was achieved a little bit at a time. I saw this solidarity come to maturity in various meetings in various formats, for example Italy’s meetings with Egypt and Algeria, which were decisive partners in this process”.
We’re still hearing talk of possible Italian-led military missions to stabilise Libya. What is this about?
“The UN plan is for the Libyan government of national accord to be installed within 40 days of the vote by the parliaments. It must be installed in Tripoli, which is a challenge in itself. Only then will it make its requests to the international community. Italy will coordinate the efforts of the western countries and assess its direct commitment, but it’s far too early to discuss that now”.
Bernardino Leon, the UN envoy, had a very difficult task but he somehow delivered the desired result.
“Italy is very grateful to him: his work was decisive. The role of the UN envoys for crisis situations is always very difficult. I’m thinking here about the Italian who’s working on behalf of Syria, or about Mali, or the western Sahara. Because their mission is useless if the conditions for an agreement, for peace, don’t exist”.
In Iraq, the Italian government was about to authorise the use of Tornados in attack operations. Why did you then put the operation on hold?
“No, the government hadn’t made any decision and if we were to decide on a different form of commitment in Iraq we’d decide it first of all in Parliament. We’re engaged in an on-going evaluation and reflecting on the type of military instrument to adopt. If in a few months’ time we were to identify different needs then we’d discuss them in concrete terms”.