A Statement by the Minister of Defence, Ms Roberta Pinotti, on the Libyan crisis

On 12 December 2014, the Italian Minister of Defence, Ms Roberta Pinotti, was interviewed by Mr Paolo Valentino, a journalist with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Before replying to – and denying – a rumour according to which she could become the next President of the Republic of Italy, she answered a number of questions concerning her Country’s foreign policy. She expressed Italy’s willingness to be protagonist in the Libyan crisis and to “provide its soldiers to a United Nations peacekeeping force”, but only upon certain conditions. In this respect, according to the Minister:

In Libya there is no single interlocutor and also from the standpoint of legitimacy the situation is still confused, after the decision of the Supreme Court that questioned the Parliament of Tobruk. The scheduled meeting with the mediator Bernardino Leon has been postponed, in order to find a minimum agreement. In case there were a recognised representative, then the possibility would materialise for an intervention by the international community.

The interview then continued as follows:

PV: Let us go back to Libya, Madam Minister: why did you cease to train local forces?

RP: We have been the first and, so far, the only ones to do that, in Cassino. When I spoke with al-Thinni, the Prime Minister in charge, I was asked to do the training in Libya. I assured him about our availability. But we stopped because soldiers were no longer selected to undergo the training. This is the proof that everything depends on the normalisation of what happens on the field. However, we exclude sending troops unless under an international mandate by the United Nations. In fact, I do not think that NATO can issue the mandate: after the 2011 intervention it would not be accepted by the factions.

PV: But is it true that we are working on the Libyan case with Egypt and the Arab Emirates, in intelligence matters?

RP: It is true that we have tight relations with them, but not only with them. We cooperate also with Qatar and Turkey, or with Algeria, that is with all actors that in the last years have played a role in Libya also from opposite standpoints. What is important now is that we all agree on the necessity to go beyond a phase that risks breaking the Country apart.

PV: Why do we not actively join the anti-IS coalition in Iraq?

RP: Air raids are diminishing, also because of the difficulties in finding targets. We are currently contributing to reconnaissance activities with two Predators and four Tornados. However, in order to take part in bombing operations we would need a favourable vote of the Parliament. To date we have not been asked to do that, whereas there is a strong request for us to provide personnel for training. Thus we have decided to send 200 trainers plus a staff of 80 people, to set up a centre in Kurdistan that we will probably manage together with Germany.

PV: Madam Minister, let us speak about NATO. At the Cardiff meeting someone had the impression that the Alliance is too focussed on the Ukrainian crisis, therefore, too inclined towards East. Is it so?

RP: No. It is true that during the previous two meetings I had perceived this disparity. But in Cardiff reflection was more balanced. And this was so – as it was recognised – also thanks to Italy, that had taken the initiative for a meeting of four Mediterranean States before the Welsh summit was held, so that the problems of the Southern edge were put in the agenda. We must not forget that the anti-IS coalition was born in Cardiff.

The full, original text of the interview (in Italian) can be found here.

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