x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Italy and UAE united in stances on Syrian strife

Visiting politicians meet Sheikh Abdullah and agree convincing Russia to condemn regime and uniting opposition should be priorities.

Members of an Italian delegation, after their meeting with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Members of an Italian delegation, after their meeting with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

ABU DHABI // Italy and the UAE are united in their opposition to military intervention in Syria, a delegation of Italian politicians said after meeting the Minister of Foreign Affairs this week.

The members of Italy's Chamber of Deputies met Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in the capital on Wednesday to discuss ways the two nations could bring together Syria's splintered opposition and change Russia's position.

"We both agree that by no means can we take up a military intervention," said Federica Mogherini, secretary of the defence committee at the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

"This is because of its geographical position. It would absolutely be counterproductive.

"The Italian and UAE positions are aligned, and we are both very worried of the current situation in Syria.

"We agreed that the priority is to increase international pressure on Russia, so it joins the international community on Syria. Italy decided to expel the Syrian ambassador a few days ago and we are acting with the United Nations on increasing the international pressure on the regime."

Ms Mogherini said Italy and the Emirates had different roles to play in their diplomatic efforts to bring the country's opposition leaders closer together.

"We discussed the problems that cause the divisions within the opposition, which obviously concerns us," she said. "Any alternative to the regime now looks fragmented.

"There are different roles for our two countries. Obviously, the Emirates being in the region and an Arab country, it will play a different role."

Also in the Italian delegation were: Gianfranco Conte, president of the finance committee of the Chamber of Deputies; Erica Rivolta, member of its committee on culture, science and education; and Maria Teresa Calabro, adviser to the chamber on bilateral talks concerning Syria, Iran and Libya.

The delegation discussed its concern over the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons.

"We and all of Europe think a nuclear-armed Iran is a danger to us," Ms Mogherini said.

The delegation discussed with Sheikh Abdullah ways of strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency's role and supporting its inspection missions.

Ms Mogherini said Italy agreed with the UAE that a military strike on Iran was not the answer.

"We both agreed there are possibilities within Iranian society to create political change," she said.

Mr Conte said the UAE and Italy had reached an agreement during the visit to cooperate in rebuilding Libya.

"We have established a commitment for reconstruction together in Libya," he said. "We agreed with Sheikh Abdullah to focus on reconstruction of infrastructure."

The delegation did not provide details of the agreement.

"The UAE and Italy were involved side by side in the intervention and now we are looking to cooperate more in a bilateral way in reconstruction, as Italy is very close to Libya and has a strong physical presence there, while the Emirates have a very strong financial and business presence there," Ms Mogherini said.

The Italian delegation also spent time meeting with members of the FNC, and with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

"We discussed with the UAE parliamentary members ways to enhance further cooperation between us, and discussed issues relating to the Arab Spring, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and the Palestinian-Israeli situation," Ms Mogherini said.

amustafa@thenational.ae