The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence on the Italian contribution to the fight against ISIL/Daesh

JOINT COMMISSIONS III AND IV OF THE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES AND 3rd AND 4th OF THE SENATE (FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE), XVII LEGISLATURE, 21st MEETING, 6 OCTOBER 2015.

On 6 October 2015, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, and the Minister of Defence, Ms Roberta Pinotti, delivered two statements before the Joint Commissions of Foreign Affairs and Defence of the Parliament. Mr Gentiloni started by illustrating the foreign policy of Italy with particular regard to the Mediterranean and Middle East areas. In this context, he recalled the role played by Italy in the fight against ISIL/Daesh. He stated:

Italy has always been part of the anti-Daesh coalition, where it plays a highly relevant role in all fields – not only in the military one, but also in the cultural, counter-information, and economic ones.
From a military point of view, as you know, we are especially active […] in Iraq, where we support a Government that is trying to win back those parts of its territory that have been occupied by Daesh. We are urging the Government to adopt a more inclusive policy towards the Sunnis, and to continue – notwithstanding economic difficulties (oil-related ones) – the dialogue initiated with the regional authorities of Kurdistan.

He then moved on to consider the situation in Syria:

The Russian intervention is a good thing, in some respects. […] Unfortunately, this positive development subsequently resulted in very critical circumstances. Russian air strikes aimed at controversial targets: meaning that Russian fighter-bombers did not only hit some Daesh posts along the Euphrates, but also focused on a Northwestern area of Iraq where both the Al-Nusra Front (that is, terrorist qaedist/jihadist groups), and certain constituents of the so-called Free Syrian Army operate extensively. The positions of this latter – as you know – have considerably weakened over the last two years. Therefore, we are dealing with controversial targets and very dangerous border violations […] within the Turkish territory, which legitimately caused the reaction of the North Atlantic Council.

With respect to the obligation to defend the sovereignty of Turkey, he stated:

There is no doubt that, since Turkey is a member of NATO, we all under the obligation – whatever our judgment on certain aspects of the Turkish domestic and foreign policy – to defend the full sovereignty of our Allies. To sum up, the involvement of Russia is a good thing if […] it takes place increasingly in coordination with the anti-Daesh coalition, and particularly with the United States. […] Clearly, military coordination is vital to avoid not only ineffective interventions, but also risks of accidents. Therefore, we have an open position: we are firm in condemning the mistakes that have been made and in defending the sovereignty of NATO Members, but we also note the importance of the involvement of Russia.

Then he addressed the situation in Libya and the need for a government of national unity:

As far as Libya is concerned, as you know, the President of the Council of Ministers reiterated – in his statement before the General Assembly of the United Nations – that Italy is ready to take the lead in an international effort to stabilize Libya. We know that such an effort and such a potential role of Italy are linked to the achievement of a result – namely, that of a government of national unity.

Subsequently, the Minister of Defence, Ms Roberta Pinotti, took the floor and focused on the Italian contribution to the fight against ISIL/Daesh, particularly by means of training of local forces. She stated:

Eighteen States are currently contributing to the training of Iraqi and Kurdish forces, and Italy is among those, having deployed one of the most substantial groups of trainers. In the last months, numerous training and specialization courses were conducted, involving both the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi forces. In August, the training carried out by our Carabinieri – deployed in the theatre of operations since June – has also started. As mentioned, we want to increase the number of Carabinieri, in order to intensify the training of those local forces that are meant to control the territories taken away from ISIS, thus avoiding the dangerous power vacuum that follows the fighting.

Demand for clarifications by the members of the Parliamentary Commissions followed. In her reply, Ms Pinotti excluded that Italy’s support to the Kurdish Peshmerga was planned to be extended, in the present situation, to the Syrian Peshmerga. She stated:

Italy is intervening in Iraq, as a member of the coalition, in agreement with the Iraqi Government. I know that we are talking about neighboring regions, and that the fight against Daesh is one, but the situation in Syria is different: at present, it would be complicated for Italy to intervene there, also in light of its constitutional constraints.

The full Italian version of these statements can be downloaded here.

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