A Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emma Bonino, on the Syrian Crisis


On 31 January 2014, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Emma Bonino, delivered a speech at the 50th Munich Security Conference, during a session devoted to “The Syrian Catastrophe”. She underlined the regional importance of a three-year-long conflict which has no clear-cut frontlines and witnesses a strong political and religious segmentation, and that is ultimately the clearest evidence of a “geopolitical clash”. Thus, she continued, these considerations

should not be an extenuating factor for the international community nor justify further delays in finding a credible way out. On the contrary, being Syria’s a proxy war we should encourage positive and responsible engagement of all regional players into the process, including countries that were not represented in Montreux meeting and which should be called upon to contribute constructively to the solution of the crisis. Iran’s involvement, at one given time will have to be taken into account. Tehran has to play a positive role starting from its acceptance of the basic parameters of the negotiating process (the Geneva communiqué).

She then stressed that both “the Montreux conference and the intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva are an important step in view of a political solution to the Syrian conflict, to which there is no alternative”, and identified

[t]he Geneva communiqué [as] the only credible toolbox at Syria’s disposal to keep the country undivided, to preserve the State apparatus and to let the democratic transition begin. Such process has to be guided by the core principle that a transitional governing body with full executive powers is the only way to achieve a political solution to the conflict. Indeed Montreux is only a starting point. The first step of a difficult journey. The trend towards Syria’s fragmentation is far from being inverted. We should provide our steady support to the parties so as to keep negotiations going under the UN lead in view of concrete gains.

Besides being a forum for negotiations, the United Nations play also an important role in the humanitarian field:

The implementation of incremental confidence-building measures between the parties in the humanitarian field is a fundamental part of negotiations and a possible concrete deliverable in the short term. I hope that the deal proposed by the UN in order to ease the humanitarian conditions in the old city of Homs will be accepted and implemented by the parties. Other understanding must follow for other besieged areas. It is not only a moral imperative facing this tremendous humanitarian catastrophe. We need to show to the Syrian population concrete and tangible results from the negotiations. This explains the urgency and the political relevance of the humanitarian side of the crisis.

Different actors are putting an extraordinary effort to support the UN work on CBMs and expand the humanitarian response. Everybody’s contribution is indispensable, provided that it is well coordinated and fine-tuned with others. I wish to commend Valerie Amos’ work in this area. As a further contribution to her efforts, on February 3rd Italy will host the high-level group meeting on the humanitarian aspects of the Syrian crisis chaired by UNOCHA.

She then pointed out that “failing to implement a largely inclusive democratic transition would frustrate the aspirations of millions”, and called for the inclusion of all relevant players (be they States or non-State actors) in the implementation of the Geneva plan, against which their actions must be assessed:

The following elements are key to ensure the fulfillment of the Geneva policy objectives.

First of all, the involvement of fighting forces in every step of the process. Throughout the Syrian crisis most narrative has been spent to label actors as “moderate” as opposed to “extremists”. I believe we should avoid being trapped into semantics. “Moderates” of all sides are to be judged by their deeds, depending more on how they act in support of the Geneva process implementation and how they support the democratic agenda in real terms.

Second. While aiming to preserve Syria as a united, sovereign and pluralistic country, each and every founding community of Syria deserves guarantees and reassurances and should be granted a proper role in tomorrow’s Syria, on top of the full enforcement of individual political and civil rights. This is all the more important as the war, beside huge destruction, has inflicted tragic wounds on multi-ethnic and multi-confessional Syria and it will take decades to heal these wounds.

Third. We all know how deeply the Syrian conflict affects the situation in Lebanon. On the other side, it is equally true that any good development in Lebanon (such as a broad coalition government that we hope to see soon) could trigger a positive momentum in the resolution of the Syrian crisis. Same goes for Iraq.

Fourth and most important. All efforts to solve the Syrian crisis would only remain good intentions if relevant players were not involved and committed to stop feeding the fighting sides with guns and strategic enablers (including foreign fighters) that are essential to endure war.

Finally, she concluded by remembering that

[t]he Syrian crisis is one of the most dramatic humanitarian crisis in recent history in terms of duration, number of civilians involved and impact on the political balance in the region. If this conflict continues it will cast shame on the entire world. For this reason, pending a political solution of the conflict I strongly call – once again – for an immediate cease-fire to allow humanitarian aid access to the country.

The full version of the speech can be found at:


(download here)

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