(fa fede solo il testo effettivamente pronunciato)
Ladies and gentlemen,
we cannot discuss international security today without addressing the Iranian nuclear question and the Middle East Peace Process. I recently returned from a visit to Jerusalem, where I had yet another opportunity to see for myself the apprehension with which Israel is following this issue. The same apprehension we are increasingly seeing in other countries of the region, from Egypt to the Gulf States, which fear the advance of Teheran’s hegemonic influence in the Middle East. And the same apprehension that is growing in the international community, which sees the Iranian authorities maintain their dilatory and uncooperative stance. An Iran equipped with nuclear weapons would be a threat not just to Israel’s security but also to the stability of the moderate Arab countries and, indeed, to global security itself. It would trigger a nuclear race by other countries and increase the risk to the security of each and every one of us. Iran is, as we know, a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Iranian question is, therefore, also a crucial test of the credibility of the current multilateral non-proliferation regime.
Since this threat concerns us all, it is vital to find a way to build a common international front that is able to stand firm against Iranian nuclear “drift”. To achieve this result we must act, in particular, to free the Middle East Peace Process from the impasse currently blocking the negotiations. It is a given that the present negotiating vacuum in the Peace Process is favouring the interests of Hamas and Iran, which have set themselves up as the only true defenders of the Islamic community in the region. I strongly believe that resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict would eliminate one of the most important pretexts used by the radicalism front to expand its influence and recruit new adherents. Therefore, in parallel with the imminent start of discussions on new sanctions against Iran, we must step up our efforts to revitalise the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. Allow me to briefly discuss both these questions.
(1) The Iranian nuclear issue: the double track policy is still valid, but the time has come to work on new and effective sanctions - On the Iranian nuclear issue I wish first of all to underscore that, although Teheran has not so far agreed to cooperate, the “open hand” policy advocated by President Obama was the right one. It achieved at least two results. First, it increased and cemented international solidarity on the Iranian question: we need only look at Russia’s position, which today is much closer to the Western one than it was a year ago. Second, it awoke Iranian society to reality: the protests in the streets of Teheran are an expression of the Iranian people’s growing awareness that “the problem lies not in Washington but in Teheran”. In this last respect, we continue, unfortunately, to witness the violent repression of the opposition. We do not intend to interfere in Iran’s domestic political issues, but this repression must be firmly condemned because every government has an obligation to uphold certain fundamental rights, which include the protection of its citizens’ lives.
That said, I wish to be very clear on the next steps we must take on the Iranian nuclear question. Iran’s response to the “open hand” policy was inadequate. The time is up. Delaying tactics are not an option. The “double track policy” is still valid, but openness cannot be an end in itself. It must be supported by readiness to adopt further measures. The time has come for the international community to embark with determination on the road of new, effective sanctions against Teheran. Iran’s nuclear counter-proposal is unacceptable and the recent, apparently positive, announcements made by the Iranian authorities need to be carefully verified. The transfer abroad of a significant amount of Iranian low-enriched uranium for transformation into nuclear fuel would certainly represent an important confidence-building measure, which could give the negotiations a new diplomatic space. But it is up to Iran to show its real and concrete readiness to negotiate and comply with the Security Council resolutions, and to provide convincing answers on its past and ongoing nuclear activities. We must measure Teheran by its actions, not by declarations.
That is why all the options, in principle, remain on the table. We must of course make every effort to find a political solution to the difficult, delicate question facing us. The main objective of the sanctions must be to push Teheran to agree to negotiation and dialogue. They must be targeted, in particular, at those members of the Iranian government who refuse to cooperate.
Sanctions as a form of pressure on the Iranian government will, moreover, be much more effective if they are approved by a large number of countries. In this respect, we need to expand the format for consultation on this question, involving all the actors concerned and encouraging them to assume greater responsibility. As I mentioned, Iran is not just a Western problem. It is a problem for all of us and the emerging powers, including China and India, will need to shoulder their responsibilities. The United Nations Security Council is the first forum where additional measures towards Iran should be sought and approved. At the same time, we realise that if it proves to be impossible to reach agreement in the Security Council, we will need to be prepared to consider the possibility of sanctions adopted by a smaller group of like-minded countries.
In both these scenarios, Italy will play, as always, a constructive part in the debate and apply the decisions adopted, coherently and in full agreement with our allies and partners. Italy is one of Iran’s leading economic partners but our companies with interests in Iran have shown a strong sense of responsibility thus far. Our government has exercised an effective “moral suasion” on these businesses. The Italian Export Credit Agency (SACE) has, since 2007, blocked all credit insurance for exports to Iran. Our companies have relinquished their plans for new investment in the oil and gas sectors. In the first 6 months of 2009 Italian exports to Iran declined by 35% with respect to the same period in 2008.
(2) Middle East Peace Process: the way to return to the negotiating table. Proximity talks? – As for the Peace Process, we strongly believe it is time for the parties to return to the negotiating table. The moratorium declared by the Netanyahu government, although temporary and partial, is a very important gesture with a significant political value. Furthermore, this gesture follows the adoption of measures to ease movement in the West Bank, and the decision by PM Netanyahu to embrace the two-state solution at the end of a long, long road.
On the other side, we think that President Abbas is now able to spend his accumulated political capital to resume the dialogue with Israel, in spite of the internal problems that he too is experiencing. The statements by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton about the terms of reference for the negotiations and the EU Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of last December all represent guarantees that will enable him to return to the negotiating table. The EU Conclusions recall the Berlin Declaration of 1999, where Europe declared for the first time that it was willing to recognize the future Palestinian State. But to resume the dialogue with Israel, President Abbas also needs strong support from the Arab countries.
Over the past year many different assumptions have circulated on the best way to restart negotiations: from a new international conference to the American idea of “proximity talks” that could be successfully launched in the coming weeks and for which Prime Minister Berlusconi and I pressed strongly during our recent visits to the region. It is important to resume the dialogue. Europe must be prepared to contribute and to reaffirm its commitment in terms of human and financial resources in order to create the right conditions for peace. It must do so both when the need comes to help resolve the main security problems that peace will raise and when we need to consider a “fair and equitable” solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. And it must do so when our support is required to find solutions to various aspects of the outbreak of peace – from water and energy supplies to port and airport outlets.
The complexity of these problems, I believe, will require the Israelis and the Palestinians to follow an approach based on integration rather than separation. The combination of the two territories, the sharing of common issues to resolve, the necessity of a common approach even to security issues (take Iran, as I have already mentioned) are all elements which suggest that cooperation rather than separate initiatives is the best course. As a proof of this, we cannot fail to note that when Israelis and Palestinians have taken different routes, as in Gaza, the result has been disastrous.
In this context, the EU must be able to accelerate the process of bringing Israel and the Palestinians closer to Europe, a process that is already under way. The closer we draw them to Europe, the greater the role Europe can play in the Middle East peace process and in contributing ideas and initiatives to find a solution. In the short term this path should lead rapidly to a reinforced partnership. For this reason, Europe is committed to upgrading relations with both sides, in order to broaden and intensify our areas of cooperation in all sectors, starting from institutional relations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
the intense and wholehearted engagement of President Obama in the region and the rediscovered harmony with regard to the Peace Process between the United States and Europe – which have finally ceased to act as sponsors of, respectively, the Israelis and the Palestinians – represent a unique opportunity that must not be wasted. But this window of opportunity might not stay open forever. It is time to act.