A Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, on the Recent Developments of the Situation in the Gaza Strip

CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 274th MEETING, 29 JULY 2014.

On 29 July 2014, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, delivered a speech before the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament on the conflict between Hamas and Israel. After expressing sorrow, on behalf of the Italian Government and people, for the casualties suffered on both sides, she highlighted the complexity of the conflict. Thus, to avoid any oversimplification, she briefly illustrated the political context of the whole region, showing how much the situations of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon and Jordan are interrelated. Then, referring to the end of the “Skyes-Picot order”, she called all the Middle-Eastern actors to assume direct and shared responsibility in the regional politics, together with Italy and Europe. Pointing out that the conflict cannot be examined through biased eyes, and that the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians – respectively, to live in peace and security and to have a sovereign State – are legitimate, she added:

In the face of this tragedy, Italy’s efforts, alongside the rest of the international community, are primarily aimed at reaching and preserving a humanitarian truce, at least to allow to retrieve the corpses, to assist the wounded and to protect the civilians. […]

She then recalled the diplomatic endeavours undertaken by the Italian Government since the days prior to the Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip, in order to try to prevent the conflict:

As you know, at that time I was in the Middle East for meetings carried out in close cooperation with our European and international partners – in particular the United States, the Arab League, and other countries of the region – and devoted to find a non-military solution to a crisis that was already evident.

We met in Ramallah with Palestinian President Abbas, in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, in Amman, in Cairo with President Al-Sisi. Last Saturday we had a meeting in Paris with Kerry and our colleagues from France, Germany, United Kingdom, Turkey and Qatar. We kept in direct and constant contact with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. We had a phone conversation with the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Zarif. We discussed the issue again one week ago, in the last meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union. We also supported the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and the declaration unanimously adopted yesterday by the Security Council, which calls attention to compliance with international humanitarian law and protection of civilians, and also supports an “immediate and unconditional” cease-fire based on the Egyptian proposal – endorsed by Italy from the beginning – which was the outcome of a direct involvement of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League. […]

Ms. Mogherini then pointed out that, in order to stop the escalation of deaths and to prevent the rise, because of the conflict, of antisemitic hate in Western societies, the imperative is to bring the hostilities to an end:

We all know well that a truce does not, and will not, resolve the conflict. But it is the first fundamental step to silence weapons and to start a negotiating process. We have all been working to this end, in order for the parties to first accept an immediate and unconditional humanitarian truce.

Other steps will have to follow to reach an enduring cease-fire, crucial for the situation not to deteriorate again in the short or medium term. Everyone knows perfectly that we cannot run the risk that this would happen again in 12, 18 or 24 months. To avoid this, we know well what must be done, what the whole international community must commit to:

1) Dramatically improving the living conditions of Palestinians, both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. For the time being, this means to grant humanitarian access and to mobilise a system capable of assisting during the emergency and supporting the reconstruction and the socio-economic development.

Norway, in its capacity as chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, proposed to Italy, now chairing the EU Council, to work together on the hypothesis of a donors’ conference to be held in Oslo in the weeks following the cease-fire.

In the meantime, Italy has already allocated an emergency contribution of 1.65 million Euros – drawing from the funds for cooperation – to address the demands of international agencies, to purchase medicines and relief goods, and to support the programmes of our NGOs – which I recently had the opportunity to meet in Jerusalem.

Moreover, Italy contributes 4 million Euros to the UNRWA’s budget, and 2 million Euros to the support of Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon. We are, of course, ready to share with the Parliament a rigorous, in-depth and, in my understanding, urgent assessment of the need to increase these contributions, with a particular focus on the activities in the Gaza Strip.

In the short-to-medium run, however, it will be necessary to solve the real problems of Gaza, starting with the opening of the crossing points, the respect for the right of Palestinians to cultivate their own land and fish in their own sea, and the payment of the wages due to civil servants in Gaza.

2) Strengthening the governmental capacity and tools of the Palestinian Authority, not only in the West Bank (replete with tensions that are as much understandable as they are worrying), but also in Gaza.

Italy has welcomed from the start the constitution of a government of national unity, or reconciliation. It is now time to recognise it as a credible counterpart – and Israel should do the same – which could strengthen the role of President Abbas and ensure all Palestinians an international institutional representation. In my opinion, during these days President Abbas’s commitment has been very important in trying to reach a cease-fire, in strict cooperation with Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, the Arab League, the United Nations, the USA, and other European partners.

3) Offering security guarantees to Israel, for the time being with regard to the destruction of rockets and tunnels and, in the short run, both on the measures to demilitarise Gaza and, of course, on the control of borders.

In this respect, in these days we have discussed with the other European countries, but also with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian authorities, the reactivation of the EU monitoring mission EUBAM Rafah, on whose redeployment Italy is ready to take the initiative. It is patent to us all, however, that a mission of this kind – be it EUBAM Rafah or another one, with a different mandate and differently conceived, perhaps inspired by the positive experience of UNIFIL – could not do without the consent of both parties, and could not operate without the simultaneous re-assumption of administrative power in Gaza by the Palestinian Authority.

4) Creating a regional and international framework capable of securing and supporting this strategy. I am convinced that the 2002 peace proposal of the Arab League can be a very good starting point, whose value, in these days, in a region ravaged by violence and instability, is even more precious than it was in the darkest years of the second Intifada.

This may be a way to turn the common and shared challenges to the security of the numerous and diverse actors of the region into opportunities to cooperate, starting from a framework able to guarantee the universal recognition of the State of Israel and, finally, the creation of a Palestinian State.

Europe may be able to give its greatest contribution on this very plane, proposing a vision of peace and mutual respect of rights. A vision that makes it possible for everyone to find a way out of the conflict by overcoming it.

5) This is, I think, the last but most important piece of the puzzle we have the duty to assemble: the attainment of a concrete, real and long-lasting solution to the “Palestinian question”.

I do not want to speak about a “restart of the peace process”: for many years, decades even, regional and world diplomacy has been conducting peace talks that sometimes seemed to have the only purpose of keeping the parties busy, according to the well-known principle that parties occupied to bargain do not have the time to fight each other.

[…]

The possible negotiated solution, with the creation of two States, and the Arab recognition of Israel, is de facto definite. There is no negotiator or mediator, on both sides, that does not acknowledge that. […]

The full Italian version of the speech can be found at:

www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Sala_Stampa/ArchivioNotizie/Interventi/2014/07/20140729_IntervMO.htm

(download here)

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