In the eastern and central Mediterranean, the importance attached by regional actors to the existence of a defined legal framework for maritime delimitation has recently emerged with reference to two separate but interrelated cases: the exploitation of hydrocarbon resources offshore Cyprus and the stipulation of a “memorandum of understanding” between Turkey and the Libyan Government led by Mr Fayez al-Sarraj and recognized by the United Nations (UN). In both cases, a clear contrast between the position and interests of Turkey, on the one hand, and the claims of a number of other coastal States, on the other, emerged. As will be seen, the Italian Government took a strong stance against the actions of Turkey, in the first case, but it adopted, instead, a position of mild criticism in the second case.Continue reading
Category Archives: Boundaries and Territorial Disputes
Territorial Issues Concerning the Arab-Israeli Conflict
On the Status of the Golan Heights
On 25 March 2019, the President of the United States (US), Mr Donald Trump, issued a Presidential Proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The text of the Proclamation clarifies that the main reason behind this decision was Israeli security. More specifically, the relevant part of the text reads:
The State of Israel took control of the Golan Heights in 1967 to safeguard its security from external threats. Today, aggressive acts by Iran and terrorist groups, including Hizballah, in southern Syria continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks on Israel. Any possible future peace agreement in the region must account for Israel’s need to protect itself from Syria and other regional threats. Based on these unique circumstances, it is therefore appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.Continue reading
The Italian Government’s Stance on the Annexation of Crimea and the Sanctions against the Russian Federation
On the Sanctions Adopted by the EU against the Russian Federation
On 5 June 2018, Italy’s newly appointed Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri (President of the Council of Ministers), Mr Giuseppe Conte, made his first address to Parliament, seeking a confidence vote in the Senato della Repubblica (Senate of the Republic, 9th Meeting, XVIII Legislature). While outlining the foreign policy program of his Government, he also made reference to the sanctions adopted by the European Union after the annexation of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. In this context, Mr Conte stated:
With regard to international scenarios, markets and security, firstly we intend to confirm our country’s convinced belonging to the North Atlantic Alliance, with the United States of America as a privileged, traditionally privileged, ally. But pay close attention! We will be advocates of an opening towards Russia. A Russia that has consolidated its international role in various geopolitical crises in recent years. We will push for a review of the sanctions system, starting from those [measures] that risk humiliating the Russian civil society.
It is noteworthy, however, that on the following day NATO Secretary General, Mr Jens Stoltenberg, emphasized the importance of political dialogue but also recalled the role of sanctions. In similar terms, the US Ambassador to NATO, Mr Bailey Hutchinson, underlined the need to maintain sanctions and avoid any hesitation, highlighting that the lack of unity between allies would be a bad signal to Russia.Continue reading
The Threatened Demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar “Rubber Tire School” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
The Khan al-Ahmar community is located in the West Bank, near the road that connects Jerusalem to the city of Jericho and the Dead Sea and not far from the Israeli settlements that rise to the east of the Holy City. Its 180 inhabitants (35 Bedouin families) belong to the tribal group Jahalin, originating from Tel Arad, in southern Israel. Members of this clan were expelled by the Israeli army in 1951 and had to relocate in what was then a territory under the control of Jordan. Nowadays, their lands are formally located within the so-called Area C of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which, under the Oslo Accords, is administered by Israel, and in particular on corridor E1, an area considered strategic for controlling the territory up to Jericho and for the expansion of the settlements. Families are extremely poor and live in temporary structures built without permits from the Israeli authorities, often funded by European countries. Villages are not connected to electricity, roads and the sewage system. They lack health and education infrastructures. Scattered in the area of Khan al-Ahmar live twelve Palestinian communities with roughly 1,400 inhabitants. The so-called “Rubber Tire School”, located in Khan al-Ahmar, serves 150 children from five different communities. The Italian NGO Terra di Vento established it in 2009 with an innovative project using mud and tires. Together with other infrastructures, it was funded by Italy, Belgium and the European Union.
Over the years, the Israeli authorities have confiscated and demolished existing facilities and issued several demolition orders to the detriment of the Bedouin communities of the Jerusalem area. As documented by the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, “from 2006 until the end of May 2018, 26 residential structures were demolished. 132 people were left without shelter, of which 77 were children and teenagers. In addition, 7 non-residential structures were demolished”.
Several petitions were filed with the High Court of Justice in favor or against the demolition orders. The Israeli settlers petitioned the Court to have the demolition orders implemented, whereas the Palestinian communities tried to resist deportation. In this respect, the position of the Israeli Government is that the Khan al-Ahmar buildings were established without any permits and that residents have been offered an alternative location where the school would be reconstructed.
On 28 May 2018, the Israeli High Court confirmed that the Government might demolish the homes of the residents of Khan al-Ahmar and the school. On 4 July the Israeli civil administration started implementing the expulsion of the residents and the demolition of the buildings, but a subsequent petition to the Court froze the process. With a temporary injunction, the Court invited the parties to reach an agreement. The Government then insisted on the immediate relocation of the Palestinian community to a site in Abu Dis, near a garbage dump. The Palestinian community refused the proposed solution and continued resisting to the expulsion and the destruction of their homes.Continue reading
Italy’s stance on the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
On 6 December 2017, the United States (US) President, Mr. Donald Trump, put into effect his presidential campaign promise to effectively recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thereby indicating a future move there for the US embassy from Tel Aviv. Such a decision has been interpreted by many as marking a turning point in the US approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Indeed, even though the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act adopted by the US Senate and House of Representatives committed the Federal Government to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, since its enactment every US President has regularly availed himself of the possibility to invoke a six-month waiver of the application of the law. President Trump himself signed such a waiver twice, before (June 2017) as well as after (December 2017) his own declaration. Nonetheless, his announcement sparked controversy and many countries voiced their dissent. Italy is among those States and its stance will be discussed below. However, in order better to understand the dissent it expressed along with a number of other countries, it is useful to provide a factual and legal context, starting with Mr. Trump’s actual words.
In his speech, Mr. Trump motivated his decision as follows:
Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. […] But today we finally acknowledge the obvious. That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.Continue reading
Negotiation and Signature of the Caen Agreement on the Delimitation of Territorial Waters and Maritime Jurisdiction between Italy and France
On 13 January 2016 the French authorities arrested the Italian fishing vessel Mina with the accusation of violating French territorial waters. The Mina was arrested during fishery of the red shrimp off the Ligurian coast, between Ventimiglia and the Mentone bay, before the Balzi Rossi reef, and was released upon payment of an 8300-euro deposit. Subsequently, the French authorities expressed regret for the arrest, conceding that it ensued from a wrongful determination of the boundary and jurisdiction over the area. The case spotlighted the on-going discussion between Italy and France over the determination of their maritime boundaries and corresponding fishing rights in an area off Liguria and North of Sardinia, pending the ratification of the so-called Caen Agreement. To date, Italy’s and France’s jurisdiction and fishing rights in the respective areas have been regulated de facto by the 1986 Bocche di Bonifacio Agreement and the 1892 Convention on the fishing zone in the Mentone Bay. More specifically, the 1892 Mentone Bay Convention has never entered into force and was negotiated as a modus vivendi providing for a cooperative ground between the countries, whilst leaving their positions legally unprejudiced. As to the Bocche di Bonifacio Agreement, it only determines French and Italian territorial waters in the Strait of Bonifacio. Though regulating the fisheries traditions and practices of French and Italian fishing vessels in a common zone West of the Strait, the Agreement fails to comprehensively establish the Parties’ maritime boundaries and fishing rights. The Caen Agreement, when in force, would thus constitute the first bilateral instrument to effectively determine the maritime boundaries between the two countries and serve as a basis to settle possible disputes.
Recognition of Palestine: Two Parliamentary Motions Approved
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, XVII LEGISLATURE, 383th MEETING, 27 FEBRUARY 2015.
On 27 February 2015, the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament was called upon to vote seven motions concerning initiatives for the recognition of the Palestinian State. Five of them were rejected (Motions nos. 1-00675, 1-00625, 1-00699, 1-00738 and 1-00747). Two were approved, but they do not seem to be fully consistent with each other. A full translation of the text of both motions is given hereunder.
The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Lapo Pistelli, on the third-party effects of a bilateral treaty establishing an Exclusive Economic Zone
SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, 3rd PERMANENT COMMISSION (FOREIGN AFFAIRS – EMIGRATION), XVII LEGISLATURE, 67th MEETING, 17 FEBRUARY 2015.
On 18 January 2015, two Italian trawlers (the Jonathan of Siracusa and the Albachiara of Cagliari) were arrested by the Egyptian coast guard about 36 nautical miles far from the coast of Egypt. The timely intervention of the Italian Government brought to the release of both the two vessels and their crews (except the catch) before a full day had passed since the incident. One month later, Mr Lapo Pistelli, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, intervened in the Senate and, commenting upon these facts, made a statement that might be read as implicitly accepting the third-party effects of a bilateral treaty aimed at delimiting two Exclusive Economic Zones in a highly contested area. In the words of the Deputy Minister: