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Governo Italiano

Letter from Foreign Minister Di Maio: “The time for action is overdue, but Italy needs to team up in order to play a role” (la Repubblica)

Date:

01/09/2020


Letter from Foreign Minister Di Maio: “The time for action is overdue, but Italy needs to team up in order to play a role” (la Repubblica)

Dear Sir,

the recent events could irretrievably alter the political destiny of the Middle Eastern region. The millions of people flooding the streets of Teheran to mourn the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani are a tangible sign of a situation of chaos determined by a complex set of variables, against a backdrop that is still crucially affected by the events of the Arab Spring, as proven by the rally held by young Iraqi demonstrators in Tahrir Square on 25 October last, and the mass protests by Lebanese youth who have been taking to the streets for months.

The US strike and Teheran's violent retaliation, which Italy forcefully condemns and which  could imperil the security of the Italian troops engaged in the Global Coalition against Daesh, could create an irremediable rift. At the same time, the developments on the ground in Libya and the recent bombing of the military academy in the capital Tripoli, are facing us with an all too familiar and disconcerting scenario, albeit in different forms.

After years of inaction and difficulties, Italy now finds itself at an important crossroads. The extraordinary work done by our experts, diplomats, military and intelligence personnel is beyond dispute. However, the capacity shown by our political system to effectively pool and exploit these qualities and capabilities is rather questionable. Therefore, I believe that the time has come to look forward and to start making plans, because we are now faced with a very clear choice between either teaming up and getting the job done or running ourselves into a dead end.

Regarding the many hot spots that have recently appeared, we need to push back the attempts being made to steer the public debate in a purely emotional direction, characterised in terms of fear and violence. The issues at stake require a more profound consideration. First of all, it's not a matter of taking sides, this isn't how we go about things in our country. Of course, we are committed to our Alliances, such as NATO, which can contribute to charting the path we need to follow. Furthermore, we are willing to act as mediators and facilitators in opening up a dialogue which, especially in Libya, needs to make urgent progress. Libya, first and foremost, is an essential security issue for our country.

This conviction has prompted me to undertake a course of action aimed at re-uniting the positions of all our European partners, based on the awareness that the upcoming Berlin Conference is a key stage in the process that should take place with the utmost urgency. It's a first step, therefore we must not get out hopes too high, but neither should be underestimate its importance, because it has re-opened a route, which, only yesterday, seemed to be closed. In fact, a meeting is taking place in Brussels between the Libyan president Serraj and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell. On Tuesday, I myself flew to Turkey, after the European summit, to meet my counterpart Minister Cavousoglu, with whom we agreed on the expediency of opening new talks with Turkey involving Moscow as well. In parallel, our government and the EU are engaged in continuous contacts with general Haftar as well, who we intend to meet, and with the United Arab Emirates. I also recently attended an important meeting in Cairo, with the Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry and my French, Cypriot and Greek counterparts, to whom I re-iterated the fact that every effort must be made to support the Berlin Conference. Meanwhile, the Italian government has expressed doubts and concerns regarding the final declaration by the summit, which appears to us to be excessively unbalanced towards the government of President Serraj recognised by the United Nations. This has prompted us, once again, to call for moderation and responsibility. Today I will be in Algiers, followed by Tunisia in the coming days, acting on the conviction that we must also involve Libya's neighbours if we want to launch a sound and successful process for achieving the stabilisation of the region. The United States (with which we are holding the usual strategic bilateral talks in Rome), Russia, Turkey and Egypt, above all, are and must continue to be seen as strategic partners to the EU. The meeting held yesterday in Brussels proved an important opportunity to reinforce this point. Only by bringing all the interested parties under the European umbrella can be hope to effectively curb interference by individual States, in order to work together to put into place a total embargo by land, sea and air, capable of effectively enforcing a ceasefire in Libya.

This is what Italy is currently engaged in doing. Some say that too little has been done too late and that we're now past the point of no return. I can agree with the former, but definitely not the latter. As the Foreign Minister and a citizen of this country, I have a duty to fulfil, regardless of the criticism and groundless attacks I'm targeted with on a daily basis. I am convinced that Italy still has a strong role to play, despite a certain inaction in the past. We need to recover our self-confidence, stop the party political bickering and, like I said, start working as a team. Only then will we be able to well and truly measure our worth and our value to the world.


Periodical:

la Repubblica

Author:

Luigi Di Maio

29422
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