I would like to express my appreciation to President Bush and Secretary Rice for taking the initiative to convene this International Meeting in Annapolis aiming at launching the negotiations for peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians and revitalize the other tracks of the Middle East Peace Process.
We welcome the efforts of the parties directly involved. We are fully aware of the difficulties they have to face in bridging the gap between them and in mobilizing support on the domestic front on deeply sensitive issues but their commitment and determination are a reason for hope.
The participation of so many relevant Arab countries is also an encouraging sign.
Today’s Meeting must mark a new starting point towards peace that goes beyond a simple reiteration of the Roadmap. This can pave the way for an acceleration of the political process aiming at facing decisively the core issues of the final status for a Palestinian independent State living alongside Israel in peace and security.
Comprehensive peace in our view implies mainly two factors:
• first, all issues between Israelis and Palestinians should be finally settled (borders, a fair solution for the problem of refugees, security arrangements, status of Jerusalem, settlements, water resources) so that an overall agreement can be considered as the fulfilment of mutual obligations and claims under the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, thus marking the end of the Arab – Israeli conflict.
• second, only when peace is achieved on all tracks of the process (including the Syrian and the Lebanese track) will the full benefits of peace be apparent in terms of stabilization of the region and development of its full potential.
This is why we consider the Arab Peace Initiative an important contribution as a useful basis for negotiations offering an historic opportunity for stabilizing the whole region after so many decades of hard confrontation and sufferings of population on both sides.
The political process has to move speedily ahead and get into concrete negotiations. We strongly encourage the parties to tackle the substantive issues with a view of reaching the final status without delay.
In fact, fragmenting the process in too many stages and in a strict sequential way would make it longer and more difficult to be explained to respective public opinions who must be fully aware of the importance of what is really at stake: the end to one of the longest and most bitter conflicts of our time, which has affected deeply the lives and the well-being of generations on both sides.
It is certainly up to the Parties themselves to reach an agreement on final status with the fundamental support of USA. Nevertheless, as Europeans and Italians we are aware that stability of the Middle East and the Mediterranean region affects our security.
We are therefore deeply committed to be more and more involved for the stability and security in the area, as our experience in Lebanon witnesses, and stand ready to provide the appropriate political support, material assistance and guarantees to the various aspects of a Peace agreement.
In a sense, peace in itself is just a beginning. It may take a generation or two to heal old wounds, to reap all benefits of it, to be translated from paper into a practice of trust, wealth, cooperation and friendship. This will not happen overnight and it would be a mistake to pretend that a “perfect” state of peace can take hold immediately.
It will take a leap of courage and good faith. The sooner peace negotiations start the sooner can we expect it to take hold in the hearts and minds of people: Italian people are especially close to both Israeli Israelis and Palestinians and are determined to reckon that Peace in Middle East is a mirage that can get into reality.