• Italy edition
 
Italy takes back seat on Syria
A Syrian man reacts while standing on the rubble of his house. Photo: Pablo Tosca/AFP

Italy takes back seat on Syria

Published: 29 Aug 2013 08:39 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Aug 2013 08:39 GMT+02:00

Foreign Minister Emma Bonino has ruled out taking part without a UN Security Council mandate and says it would not be "automatic" even with such approval.

Government sources quoted in local media say Italy would also likely bar the use by third countries of air bases that played a pivotal role in Libya.

Italy is calling for UN inspectors to complete their work and anyone responsible for last week's alleged chemical weapons attack to be brought to justice.

"This very legalistic position is a departure from Italy's tradition of loyalty to Atlantic allies," said Jean-Pierre Darnis, an expert on Italian defence.

Several factors lie behind the policy, ranging from political weakness to concern about the fate of Christian minorities, experts said.

"Italy is prudent because it is weak," Vincenzo Nigro, a foreign policy specialist, said in an interview on the website of the La Repubblica daily.

"The slogan of [US President Barack] Obama seems to be: 'We have to do something, even if mistakes are made along the way'," Nigro said.

"Italy's is: 'It's better not to do anything even at the risk of mistakes and distancing ourselves from our traditional allies," he said.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta presides over an uneasy coalition with predecessor Silvio Berlusconi's party and tensions are particularly high now on the political scene because of the billionaire tycoon's legal woes.

Another factor behind the diplomatic caution could be because Italy is very involved in Lebanon, where it heads up the United Nations Interim Force.

"Syria is a piece in the puzzle that includes Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq and any action in Syria could destabilize Lebanon," said Silvia Colombo from the Institute for International Affairs in Rome.

Colombo said Italy was also looking at Christians.

"The fate of Christians, who are threatened by the rise of radical Islamism, is not marginal," she said.

Mindful of the exodus of Christians from Iraq, the Vatican has repeatedly called for more negotiations and a process of peace and reconciliation in Syria.

Marco Volpe, a Middle East expert from the Centre for International Studies, said Italy was "examining all possible consequences of an armed intervention for political and religious equilibriums in the region".

Darnis said there was also the issue of public opinion, which in Italy is "more realist" than elsewhere and remains solidly convinced that strikes against on Syria "will not resolve anything".

Britain, France or the United States could launch strikes "almost based on the decision of a single man" but Italy, like Germany, is a parliamentary democracy where the votes of lawmakers are essential.

Asked if Italy's position could evolve, as it did with Libya, to align with its allies, Darnis said it was a possibility particularly since Italy has "major interests" in the Middle East.

But he added that its more neutral position could also be a diplomatic card to play in the future if there are ever negotiations between the warring sides.

He said Bonino, a former European aid commissioner who knows the Middle East well and has studied Arabic, could be looking to position Italy in a more humanitarian role by staying above the military fray.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
EU sanctions against Russia
EU to decide new Russia sanctions on Friday
Italy’s Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said that new sanctions against Russia will be decided by the European Commission on Friday. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP

EU to decide new Russia sanctions on Friday

Italy’s Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday that new sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine will be decided by the European Commission on Friday. READ  

Votes for expats
Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Photo: TJ Morris

Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule

The Conservative party in the UK has made a bid to woo expat voters by pledging to end the controversial “15-year rule” that prevents millions of Brits abroad from being able to vote. READ  

Bad weather brings summer to an abrupt end
Heavy rain swept across Italy on Monday. Rain photo: Shutterstock

Bad weather brings summer to an abrupt end

The summer has come to an abrupt end in Italy, as bad weather sweeps across the country leaving at least one person dead and six injured. READ  

'Germany is a model for Italy': Renzi
“We must stop talking badly of Germany," Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

'Germany is a model for Italy': Renzi

Italians must stop talking badly of Germany, which should be seen as a model country, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday. READ  

Mario Balotelli dumps fiancée: report
Mario Balotelli has reportedly split from fiancée Fanny Neguesha. Photos: Gabriel Bouys/AFP (L) and Alberto Ligria/AFP

Mario Balotelli dumps fiancée: report

Italian striker Mario Balotelli has reportedly split from his fiancée less than three months after proposing to her on a Brazilian beach. READ  

Venice film festival
Venice buzzes with new film financing initiative
European Gap-Financing Co-production Market, launched at this year's Venice film festival, hopes to take movies from the drawing board into cinemas. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

Venice buzzes with new film financing initiative

Gripped by film festival fever, international investors are hunting for the next groundbreaking stories and rising-star directors - and they're in luck, for far from the crush at festivals like Toronto, Venice has launched a unique initiative. READ  

Pistelli likely to be Italy's new foreign minister
Lapo Pistelli is currently Italy's deputy foreign minister. Photo: IAEA Imagebank/Flickr

Pistelli likely to be Italy's new foreign minister

After Federica Mogherini was on Saturday named the EU’s new foreign policy chief, her deputy Lapo Pistelli is in pole position to take over as Italy's foreign minister. READ  

Italian football
Lack of Italian footballers alarms sport chiefs
Carlo Tavecchio said new centres were being created to foster home-grown talent. Photo: Emanuele.corr/Wikimedia Commons

Lack of Italian footballers alarms sport chiefs

Carlo Tavecchio, head of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), and Italy coach Antonio Conte said on Monday action was needed to redress the balance of national players after the season kicked off with a majority of foreign footballers. READ  

Spielberg leaves €300 tip in Italian restaurant
Giuseppe Basso, the owner of Locanda Lorena on Palmaria (left) with Steven Spielberg. Photo: Giuseppe Basso/Locanda Lorena

Spielberg leaves €300 tip in Italian restaurant

Waiting staff at a restaurant on an Italian island got a surprise when the American film director Steven Spielberg called in for lunch and left them a €300 tip. Generous though the tip was, it’s not the biggest staff have received, the restaurant’s owner told The Local. READ  

Far right slammed over gay adoption photo
This is not the photograph used by the political party. Baby photo: Shutterstock

Far right slammed over gay adoption photo

An Italian photographer has threatened to sue a far-right political party after it used one of his photographs - originally used for a pro-gay family article - in its campaign against gay people adopting children. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sport
Football greats to kick-off Rome's match for peace
Politics
Italy scores EU win as Mogherini gets top job
National
Refugees protest against 'monotonous' Italian food
National
Rome man begs for jail to escape wife
Health
Italian scientists map brain to diagnose ALS
Gallery
Top 10: Italy's best films
National
Waiter writes 'faggots' on gay diners' receipt
Health
'The G-spot doesn't exist': Italian scientist
Sport
Mario Balotelli's most memorable moments
Business & Money
'The crisis is extremely healthy for Italy'
Features
Top tips: Surviving a job interview in Italy
Health
'Let infertile couple use donors': Italian court
Health
Wives suffer 'Retired Husband Syndrome'
National
10 fascinating facts about Augustus
Sport
VIDEO: Balotelli takes on 'Ice Bucket Challenge'
Travel
Give kids extra month off 'to boost tourism': plea
Travel
Tourist takes €4,000 taxi from Denmark to Rome
Society
Outrage over gossip mag's free gay joke book
International
Rome mayor slams British travel warning
Politics
Scots inspire separatists in Italy's Germanic north
Travel
Ten stupid things tourists have done in Italy
Politics
Bono praises Renzi's leadership in letter
National
'Take down Facebook honeymoon snaps': court
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

547
jobs available