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
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
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 fight against “irregular” migration to Italy featured prominently in the election manifesto of the Lega (League – a right-wing political party) and was incorporated in the coalition agreement concluded between the two governing parties after the 4 March 2018 general election, namely the League and the Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement). Accordingly, on 5 June 2018, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr Giuseppe Conte, outlined the approach on migration of the newly formed Italian Government during his first speech before the Senate of the Republic (9th Meeting, XVIII Legislature):
It is clear to everyone that the management of migratory flows as implemented to date has failed. Europe allowed – we must emphasize it – selfish positions by Member States, which ended up placing the burden, which should have been shared, on border States, first and foremost on Italy. That is why we will vigorously demand to go beyond the Dublin Regulation, so as to ensure actual compliance with the principle of equitable responsibility-sharing and implement automatic mechanisms for the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers. […]
We want asylum procedures to be well-established and swift, also with a view to more effectively ensuring that the rights [of asylum seekers] are guaranteed and that they do not live in uncertainty. […]
We must also re-organize the reception system and make it efficient with a view to ensuring the transparent use of public funds and preventing any infiltration by organized crime. Should there be no grounds for the stay [of migrants in Italy], we will take action to make repatriation procedures effective and, at the European level, to compel third States willing to conclude cooperation agreements with any EU Member States to ratify bilateral agreements for the management of migratory flows.Continue reading
Italy has a long tradition of taking public stances on issues concerning the United Nations (UN) in general, and the Security Council (SC) in particular. The most important of such issues is perhaps the reform of the SC, a hotly debated question on which Italy has been taking a leading position for many years, promoting a series of proposals around which a group known as “Uniting for Consensus” has gathered. This very same theme has been discussed by Italian representatives at the UN also in 2017 and 2018, when they reiterated and further clarified their country’s view. Those years also correspond to the biennium that saw Italy and the Netherlands share a split non-permanent seat at the SC (the former being a member in 2017). Therefore, Italy has recently had many occasions to express its ideas on the action of the SC.
It is well known that the role of the SC has been progressively expanding since the end of the Cold War, so that nowadays its activities have a far wider scope than that envisioned in 1945 by the drafters of the UN Charter. Such legal developments can be said to be, by now, largely accepted by the international community, and even those States that occasionally veto or anyhow oppose certain SC resolutions, sometimes do that inconsistently and by putting forth political rather than legal justifications. This notwithstanding, the issue of how far-reaching the powers of the SC are remains the subject of scholarly debate and is still of some practical importance for States. From this perspective, it may be useful to review Italy’s stances on the action of the SC.Continue reading
Control over oil resources has been a key factor in the situation of civil war and political turmoil that has affected Libya in this decade. Already in 2011, a turning point in the struggle against the Qhadafi Government took place when the insurgents of the Transitional National Council proved that, by controlling the eastern ports of Brega and Ras Lanuf, they were able to trade in oil with foreign corporations. In the ensuing period, and especially between 2014 and 2018, the competition between rival governments was constantly mirrored by the struggle to gain control over oil resources and, most notably, over the National Oil Corporation (NOC). In 2014, in a paradoxical twist of history, the stability of the revolutionary government that had ousted Qhadafi was seriously put into question when a group of “Petroleum Facilities Guards”, led by a Ibrahim Jadhran, came to control the same eastern ports that had been instrumental to the demise of the previous ruler. A stateless tanker was able to leave port against the will of the Tripoli Government and was subsequently inspected, seized on the high seas, and brought back to port in Libya by an operation of the US Navy. In 2015, the House of Representatives of Tobruk attempted to establish a new National Oil Corporation with headquarters in eastern Libya claiming that the NOC based in Tripoli had no legitimacy and that new contracts had to be negotiated with the eastern NOC. The initiative had little success as the NOC and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli remained the sole official interlocutors of the international corporations operating in Libya. However, the situation of uncertainty with respect to control over the main oil fields of the country persisted. In July 2018, when the Libyan National Army (LNA) of General Khalifa Haftar took control of the eastern oil fields, attempts to sell oil through the eastern-based oil corporation started again, allegedly with the assistance of the United Arab Emirates. This prompted a reaction by the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, which is commented upon here below.
Repeated attempts to illicitly export oil from Libya were condemned by the UN Security Council, which clearly supported the position of the GNA. With Resolution 2146 (2014) the Council requested that the GNA contact the Sanctions Committee previously established by Resolution 1970 (2011) “to inform the Committee of any vessels transporting crude oil illicitly exported from Libya”. The Resolution then authorized Member States, after seeking consent by the vessel’s flag State, “to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances […] to […] direct the vessel to take appropriate actions to return the crude oil, with the consent of and in coordination with the Government of Libya, to Libya”. Moreover, it was made clear that all Member States were under an obligation to “take the necessary measures to require their nationals and entities and individuals in their territory not to engage in any financial transactions with respect to such crude oil from Libya aboard vessels designated by the Committee”. Subsequently, Resolution 2174 (2014) expanded the reasons for listing individuals and entities in the sanctions lists mentioning explicitly those “providing support for armed groups or criminal networks through the illicit exploitation of crude oil or any other natural resources in Libya”. Resolution 2362 (2017) expanded the applicability of the measures adopted with Resolution 2146 (2014) to petroleum, including crude oil and refined petroleum products. In a number of resolutions, the Security Council reiterated that the resources of Libya must remain under the sole control and authority of the GNA and the NOC of Tripoli.
Within this context, the position of the Italian Government has consistently supported the GNA by affirming clearly that the right to control and administer the oil resources of the country pertained exclusively to the NOC. During the course of 2018, Italy participated in the adoption of two joint statements (together with France, the United Kingdom and the United States) dealing directly with the issue of control over Libyan oil resources.Continue reading
On 17 April 2018, Mr Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, President of the Council of Ministers, reported before the Senate of the Republic on the developments of the situation in Syria (5th Meeting, XVII Legislature). In doing so, he also summarized the Government’s position on the airstrikes against Syria conducted by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom on 14 April 2018, presented as a response to the chemical weapons allegedly used in Douma by the Syrian army a few days before. Mr Gentiloni firstly commented upon the credibility of these allegations:
Eventually, the Joint Investigative Mechanism (which is a partnership between the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations) determined that in the last years, at least three times, the Syrian army resorted to using chlorine gas.
Moreover, it confirmed the use of nerve gas in the attack in KhanShaykhun that occurred exactly one year ago. You will recall that on that occasion there was a response by the United States. But the same body – the Joint Investigative Mechanism – determined that Daesh as well, on a couple of occasions, resorted to using chemical weapons in the Syrian context.Continue reading
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
On 17 July 2017, during a Parliamentary debate on the ongoing war in Yemen, the Sottosegretario di Stato per gli Affari esteri e la Cooperazione internazionale (Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), Mr. Vincenzo Amendola, presented the stance of the Italian Government vis-à-vis the conflict between the Houthi rebels and the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The request for military support from President Hadi’s government, which enjoys wide international recognition, has been accepted by a coalition of States, led by Saudi Arabia. Before the Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies, 835th Meeting, XVII Legislature) Mr. Amendola qualified the government as the legitimate authority in Yemen. He described the situation as follows:
In 2014, there was a true subversion of the institutional order from the Houthis, carried out by paramilitary militias. The coup interrupted the process of transition that was in place and resulted in the destitution of President Hadi and the fall of the Yemeni Parliament. Given the situation and the worsening of the terrorist threat brought about by Al Qaeda in great part of the Yemeni territory, which took advantage of the power vacuum in the country, a military intervention upon request and sustained by the legitimate government was launched by a coalition of States formed by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Sudan, Egypt and Morocco.
Allegations of a violation of international humanitarian law as a result of the bombings carried out by Saudi Arabia led to questioning the export of arms to Riyadh. On this issue, too, the Undersecretary explained the Italian position. The obligations applicable to Italy as to the export of arms derive from domestic, European and international legal instruments. However, Mr. Amendola only mentioned the domestic framework and reminded that:
The exports of arms are governed by Law no. 185 of 1990 and its subsequent amendments, and the authorizations for licenses involve different Ministries and authorities, as to the analysis of the content of the single operation as well as in terms of opinions for the export to non-EU/NATO countries.Continue reading
On 4 April 2017, it was reported that the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun – controlled at the time by the Tahrir Al-Sham Alliance – had been the object of an airstrike by the air force of the Government of President Bashar Al Assad. As a result of the airstrike, chemical agents poisoned large numbers of civilians.
In a report released on 30 June 2017, the Fact-Finding Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) estimated the number of deaths “as approximately 100 people” and determined that “Sarin or a Sarin-like substance” had been used as a weapon in Khan Shaykhun. It took until 27 October 2017 for the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism to take position on the responsibility for the attack and affirm that the Leading Panel of the mechanism itself was “confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of Sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017”.
In the aftermath of the attack, however, several countries condemned the action and the United States (US), the United Kingdom and France openly called into question the responsibility of the Syrian Government. The US President, Mr. Donald Trump, condemned the attack as “intolerable” and openly blamed the inaction of his predecessor Barack Obama, who, after establishing “a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons did nothing”. On its part, the Syrian government denied any involvement in the use of chemical weapons. The Government of the Russian Federation offered alternative explanations of the events, mentioning the fact that the Syrian Air Force could have “bombed an underground factory producing chemical warfare agents” or alluding to a possible “provocation by the terrorists”. Within the United Nations (UN) Security Council, a draft resolution condemning the attack – tabled by France, the United Kingdom and the US – was vetoed by the Russian Federation, with the abstention of China, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.Continue reading