• Italy's news in English
 

Italy takes back seat on Syria

Published: 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.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Video
'Blind' claimant caught using smartphone
One of the suspects was seen driving a car and even using a touch-screen mobile phone. Screengrab: Pupia Crime/YouTube

'Blind' claimant caught using smartphone

Two people claiming a total of €120,000 in disability benefits for total blindness have been arrested in southern Italy after they were spotted engaging in normal activities such as driving, using a touch screen phone and moving around without assistance. READ  

Italian stallions 'bigger men than Germans'
The size of a man’s feet, index finger or testicles could not be used to determine the size of a man’s penis, scientists said. Measurement photo: Shutterstock

Italian stallions 'bigger men than Germans'

If recent economic developments have left Italians with an inferiority complex towards Germans, a new British medical study has given the men, at least, reason to stand tall. READ  

Most Italians unhappy with EU leadership
More than half the number of Italians polled by Gallup said they disapproved of the job performance of those leading the EU. EU parliament photo: Shutterstock

Most Italians unhappy with EU leadership

More than half the number of Italians polled about the European Union said they disapproved of the job performance of those leading the economic bloc. READ  

Video
Italian police arrest 52 for armed robberies
The arrests follow an investigation which began in 2010. Police photo: Shutterstock

Italian police arrest 52 for armed robberies

Police in northern Italy on Tuesday arrested 52 people accused of 55 armed robberies as well as kidnapping, international drug trafficking, blackmail and theft. READ  

The Local List
Ten surprising themes from Milan fashion week
Big furry slippers and babies made an appearance at Milan fashion week. Photos: Giuseppe Cacace and Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Ten surprising themes from Milan fashion week

As Milan fashion week hands over the baton to Paris, winding up a whirlwind show which saw historic brands revitalized and young designers triumph, here are ten themes from the autumn/winter 2015 collections. READ  

Juve tighten grip on Serie A top spot
"The season is still long," said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri after the game. Photo: Marco Bertorello AFP

Juve tighten grip on Serie A top spot

Seydou Keita salvaged a point for ten-man Roma in a 1-1 draw with Juventus on Monday that saw the champions retain their nine-point lead at the top of Serie A. READ  

Video
'Cinderella' dresses hit Armani catwalk
Armani's evening wear had a touch of the adolescent about it too, with "Cinderella" dresses. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

'Cinderella' dresses hit Armani catwalk

King of fashion Giorgio Armani closed a whirlwind fashion week in Milan on Monday with an autumn/winter 2015 collection starring "Cinderella" dresses and a new skirt-trousers combo which had fashionistas all in a tizz. READ  

Film claims Italian Pope saved 800,000 Jews
The Italian pontiff, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Pacelli, led the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958. Photo: Vatican/Wikimedia Commons

Film claims Italian Pope saved 800,000 Jews

A new film about Pope Pius XII has sparked controversy over claims the pontiff saved 800,000 Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War. READ  

Italy-Monaco in pact against tax evasion
Italy and Monaco have signed an agreement to share information for tax purposes. Arthur Stasewski

Italy-Monaco in pact against tax evasion

Italy has made a pact with Monaco aimed at clamping down on tax evaders, the finance ministry said in a statement on Monday. READ  

Italy PM in emergency helicopter landing
Matteo Renzi was picked up by his security detail and driven to the Italian capital. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Italy PM in emergency helicopter landing

A helicopter carrying Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday made an emergency landing in Tuscany, after being hit by bad weather according to Italian media reports. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sport
Purrfect catch: Italian twins land giant catfish
National
VIDEO: Massive sinkhole opens up in Naples
Culture
Italians 'don't love' their language
National
In pictures: Italians mock Isis on Twitter
Opinion
Could Isis terrorists really invade Italy?
International
EU to increase migrant aid to Italy
National
Lampedusa: Tiny Italian island swamped by migrant tide
Culture
Italy sells off Mussolini buildings to raise cash
National
Italians are Europe's most reckless drivers
National
Why flirty Italians still don't do online dating
Gallery
Top 10: the most romantic places to propose in Italy
National
Top 10: your favourite Italian words
International
Bond meets Snowden: The HSBC whistleblower
Education
Ten common mistakes Italians make in English
National
What makes life in Bolzano so good?
National
Swiss town's ploy against workers living in Italy 'not racist'
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Travel
How the weak euro is boosting tourism to Italy
Politics
Italy sends mixed signals on Greek debt
National
Top 10 delightfully irrational Italian superstitions
Politics
Sergio Mattarella: Sicilian 'man of the law'
National
10 Italian words used differently in English
National
26-year jail term sought for Concordia captain
Vatican
What did you think of the Pope's rabbit rant?
Culture
Italy seizes more than 5,000 looted artefacts
International
How can an American get Italian citizenship?
Travel
Italian hotel named best in world for families
Culture
Top 15 English words reinvented by Italians
Culture
Top 10: The best Italian inventions
Politics
Deputy Senate chief in Syria hostage sex row
National
A portrait of modern Italy in 10 stats
National
Muslims in Italy react to new Charlie Hebdo
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Culture
Rome's Trevi pays tribute to late La Dolce Vita star
Politics
Paris attacks: Knock-on effects across Europe
National
Should Italy spy more after the Paris attack?
National
Italy moves to widen smoking ban
National
New mosque ban in Padua after Paris attacks
Business & Money
Italy banks on a future with foreign investors
National
Sicily bridge collapses within days of opening
Business & Money
Italy's luxury brands defy economic crisis
International
Why migrant smugglers are using 'ghost ships'
National
The Local's aspirations for Italy in 2015
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

907
jobs available