Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero
Speech Before the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committees
Rome, Italy
September 13, 2001

Mr. Chairmen, Honourable Senators, Honourable Deputies,

I thank the Chairmen of the Foreign and Defence Committees of the Chamber and Senate for inviting Minister Martino and myself to hold a briefing on the decision adopted last night by the North Atlantic Council following the terrorist attacks in the United States.

From the information we have received from our Permanent Mission to NATO, it appears that upon hearing the news on September 11 of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the North Atlantic Council was immediately convened for a primary assessment. At the same time, the Secretary-General issued a statement expressing his strong condemnation of the terrorist acts and full solidarity with the authorities and the population of the United States.

Annexed to my report is the text of that statement made by Secretary-General Lord Robertson (annex A).

At the meeting, the Council voiced unanimous solidarity with the United States, while Washington expressed its appreciation for the political support it received and for the willingness of many allies, including Italy, to provide assistance through the dispatch of civil protection units for search and rescue operations of survivors.

Yesterday, 12 September, both NATO and the European Union mobilised in parallel their full operational solidarity. The Secretary-General of the Alliance participated, an unprecedented event, in a meeting of the General Affairs Council of the EU. That was a special meeting convened at short notice by the Belgian Presidency and which was attended by all the Ministers of the Foreign Affairs of the 15 countries.

The conclusions of that Council are annexed to my statement (annex A.b).

In the context of NATO, the Secretary-General promoted the adoption by the North Atlantic Council of an important statement in which the attacks in New York and Washington were placed in the framework of cases covered by the mechanisms of article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

The Council recognised the importance, both political and substantial, of the Secretary-General's proposal, and immediately invested the governments of its Member Countries. The following hours resulted in a series of contacts among the major European partners and also with their transatlantic allies at political level. Broad consensus was obtained immediately on the text proposed by the Secretary-General.

In the meantime, an extended meeting was held at the NATO Head Quarters in which the allied countries were joined by NATO's partner countries in the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. This includes 46 countries, including Russia and Ukraine, the complete list of which I enclose in my report and will read to you for information purposes (annex B). I would like to point out that there are several Muslim elements in that list of countries.

In this meeting too, there was a great show of unanimous solidarity with the United States and strong condemnation of terrorism. The feeling everyone shared was that the attacks in New York and Washington were not only an assault against the United States, but against the Euro-Atlantic community as a whole, which in the post cold war period has referred to the same ideals of democracy, as well as against the values of the entire international community.

Particularly appreciated and warm was the speech given by the Russian ambassador, not to mention the comments made by the countries applying for admission to NATO and also those of several traditionally neutral countries.

This meeting resulted in a special formal statement (annex C), which also expresses unconditional condemnation of terrorism and great solidarity with the United States of America.

The Atlantic Council met again yesterday evening to discuss the text of the statement proposed by the Secretary General. It was approved after brief examination and its text widely distributed and commented on by the international and national media. I enclose the text of that statement (annex D) which I will now read [in the Italian translation].

"On September 12th, the North Atlantic Council met again in response to the appalling attacks perpetrated yesterday against the United States.

The Council agreed that if it is determined that this attack was directed from abroad against the United States, it shall be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.

The commitment to collective self-defence embodied in the Washington Treaty was first entered into in circumstances very different from those that exist now, but it remains no less valid and no less essential today, in a world subject to the scourge of international terrorism. When the Heads of State and Government of NATO met in Washington in 1999, they paid tribute to the success of the Alliance in ensuring the freedom of its members during the Cold War and in making possible a Europe that was whole and free. But they also recognised the existence of a wide variety of risks to security, some of them quite unlike those that had called NATO into existence. More specifically, they condemned terrorism as a serious threat to peace and stability and reaffirmed their determination to combat it in accordance with their commitments to one another, their international commitments and national legislation.

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty stipulates that in the event of attacks falling within its purview, each Ally will assist the Party that has been attacked by taking such action, as it deems necessary. Accordingly, the United States' NATO Allies stand ready to provide the assistance that may be required as a consequence of these acts of barbarism".

It is worth dwelling briefly on this text with regard to the meaning of its referral to article 5 of the Washington agreement. That article, as you know, states that an armed attack against one or more of the allied countries in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently the allies agree that if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force.

I would like to stress that this article has been the essence of NATO solidarity for 50 years. It has constituted the strength of the Alliance and has successfully maximised its dissuasive capacity, to the extent indeed that fortunately it has never had to be applied.

In more recent times, with the era of the cold war over, it has come clearly to light that the security of Member States and of the Alliance as a whole could be jeopardised by hostile factors of a different nature from those that had naturally been considered at the signing of the Treaty in 1949 and in the years following the Cold War.

This awareness, which gradually developed, was given full recognition on the occasion of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of NATO held in Washington in 1999, in which Italy participated represented by the then Prime Minister, the Honourable D'Alema.

Indeed, on that solemn occasion, a document of great importance was approved, the drafting of which had been the object of in-depth reflection and intense debate among the allies.

I am referring to the "new strategic concept" article 24 of which specifies that in the new global context Alliance security must take account of risks of a wider nature than those previously identified, including terrorism which is mentioned specifically. I will now read to you the text of article 24 [in the Italian translation] (annex E).

"Any armed attack on the territory of the Allies, from whatever direction, would be covered by Articles 5 and 6 of the Washington Treaty. However, Alliance security must also take account of the global context. Alliance security interests can be affected by other risks of a wider nature, including acts of terrorism, sabotage and organised crime, and by the disruption of the flow of vital resources. The uncontrolled movement of large numbers of people, particularly as a consequence of armed conflicts, can also pose problems for security and stability affecting the Alliance. Arrangements exist within the Alliance for consultation among the Allies under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty and, where appropriate, co-ordination of their efforts including their responses to risks of this kind".

It is upon this logic, a logic that has progressively been affirmed and was sanctioned at the Washington Summit, that the statement approved by the North Atlantic Council following yesterday's unprecedented assault, is based.

I would like to underline to this regard that it is still a suspensive condition for a possible NATO action on the basis of article 5. The text of the statement declares in fact that the Council agrees that if it is determined that the attack made on September 11 was directed from abroad against the United States, it shall be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

This is the uniquely political message of great strength that emerges from the statement, both in support of the United States, and as a future warning to other potential aggressors.

I would like to recall in this context that the attack on the Twin Towers in New York targeted the place of work of over 40,000 people, a community that corresponds in size to that of a small city.

The Atlantic Alliance, whose fundamental role is to safeguard the freedom, the common inheritance and civilisation of the people and is founded on the principles of democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law, has a duty to react adequately and with full solidarity among all the allies to a challenge that affects to such an extent not only the life of American citizens, but also those of so many nations of the world, and possibly including Italian citizens.

This is why there has been such a vast, united response from the international community.