Minister of Foreign Affairs Renato Ruggiero
Speech on His Visit to Washington D.C.
Chamber of Deputies
Rome, Italy
September 28, 2001

Mr. Speaker, Honourable Deputies,

I am delighted to have this opportunity to report to the Chamber of Deputies on my trip to Washington and New York that took place on 25 and 26 September.

On the first of those two days, I had the chance to meet with the US Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, the US National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, the US Vice President Dick Cheney and the Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

On the second day, I had meetings in New York with mayor Rudolph Giuliani, with the relatives of the missing Italians and with representatives of the Italian community in New York. In the afternoon, I had a long talk with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In my meetings in Washington, I illustrated the position of the Italian government regarding the set of measures that are to become part of a far-reaching strategy in the fight against international terrorism.

To illustrate our position, I referred to the recent and most important international documents on the matter, and of which I enclose a copy:
  • the United Nations Security Council Resolution of September 12;

  • the UN General Assembly Resolution of the same day;

  • the Statement made by the North Atlantic Council again on September 12;

  • the Conclusions of the General Affairs Council and the European Union Statement of September 12;

  • the Joint Statement by European Union Heads of State and Government of September 14;

  • the Statement by G8 Heads of State and Government of September 19;

  • the Conclusions and Plan of Action of the Extraordinary European Council of September 21.
I also referred to the several declarations of great political importance that have been publicly made by many members of the majority and the opposition.

The main points of my presentation were as follows:
  • in my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic, I reiterated the feelings of solidarity of all the Italian people with the people of the United States and particularly with the families of the victims of the barbaric terrorist attack. I wish to recall, incidentally, that the number of missing persons registered to date is just less than 7000 people, and that so far only 1300 bodies have been found and only about 300 identified;

  • I then expressed the solidarity and support of the Italian government and the Italian political forces for the American administration in the fight against international terrorism. To this regard, I made explicit reference also to the above mentioned General Assembly Resolution, which was approved - I wish to point out again - by all members of the United Nations;

  • I then recalled that as members of the Atlantic Alliance, we had sustained and approved the statement made by the North Atlantic Council on September 12 which set forth, among other things, the possibility of invoking Article 5 of the Treaty;

  • Accordingly, I affirmed that "the Italian Government stands ready to participate in any action deemed necessary by the Atlantic Council, including military operations, as stated in the same Article 5";

  • I recalled that government's position has the backing of the majority of Italian political forces;

  • I underlined the statement made the Prime Minister on the government's willingness to ask for a vote in Parliament, as was done, in fact, by the American administration and by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany;

  • I stressed that the position of the Italian government with regard to the fight against international terrorism was also closely based on the text of the Conclusions of the Extraordinary European Council of September 21. It is in this sense that Italy's commitment and that of our European Union partners must be considered, to co-operate with the United States in bringing to justice and punishing the perpetrators, sponsors and accomplices of such inhumane acts.

  • I pointed out that the Conclusions and Plan of Action of the European Council also affirm that on the basis of the United Nation Security Council resolution 1368, a US risposte is legitimate. The Member States of the Union are prepared to undertake such actions, each according to its means. The actions must be targeted and may also be directed against States abetting, supporting or harbouring terrorists. They will require close cooperation with all the Member States of the European Union. Lastly, the Union calls for the broadest possible global coalition against terrorism, under the aegis of the United Nations.
In my presentation of the position of the Italian government, I made ample reference to the need to avoid any action that could be interpreted as a desire to wage a war of religion. To this effect, humanitarian aid to the worst stricken populations in this crisis takes on a highly political value.

It is from this viewpoint that must be seen the mission about to be undertaken by Under-Secretary Boniver to Pakistan on 1-3 October, and particularly to the refugee camps, as well as our commitment to contributing to humanitarian aid for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Seven million dollars have already been earmarked for UNHCR programmes. This commitment of ours is added to similar important aid programs of the International Community and particularly of the United States and of the European Union.

I constantly underlined, in each of my talks and also with the press, that the inclusion of military operations in the overall strategy against international terrorism constitutes only a part of this strategy, and not even the most important part.

I then mentioned the main areas, apart from military measures, in which which the Extraordinary European Council indicated the need to develop broader cooperation:
  • Enhancing police and judicial cooperation;

  • Developing international legal instruments;

  • Putting an end to the funding of international terrorism;

  • strengthening air security;

  • Coordinating European policies in the field of security, defence and foreign affairs.
The visits currently being carried out by the community Troika to Pakistan, Iran, Syria and other capitals of the Middle East are in fact focused on this new dimension of European Union foreign policy. For my part, I am scheduling a series of visits to the countries of the Middle East and Mediterranean area and to Iran.

Allow me to make a brief comment. As often happens at times of great danger, there are opportunities that can be seized. The need for a common European position to implement the Plan of Action agreed upon by the Heads of State and Government represents a great opportunity for us to make a quality leap forward in European construction in sectors of great importance, such as judicial cooperation and that of policing, and in particular, to make real progress in security, defence and foreign policies.

I underlined in my talks that as far as Italy's position is concerned, we intend to attach ample importance to all policies liable to reduce poverty in the world, to fight hunger, to alleviate inequalities, to fight AIDS and other infectious illnesses, to safeguard the environment, and to protect human rights and social rights. In short, to continue with determination on the road we embarked upon with the G8 in Genoa to build a better world.

That is how I presented the position of the Italian government, both to the American authorities, and at the numerous meetings with the Italian and foreign press.

Lastly, I conveyed the desire of the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to visit the United States as soon as possible. That visit should take place as early as next week.

I would now like to sum up for you the reactions of my interlocutors.

My first impression was that I received a very warm welcome and feelings of gratitude for the solidarity shown at all levels by our country with the victims of the barbaric terrorist attack. There was no coldness or incomprehension regarding Italy's position. The publicly reiterated American declarations bear witness to that.

My second remark is that during my talks I was able to ascertain a great sense of caution and responsibility in moving away from this phase of waiting, to operational decisions. My interlocutors underlined several times that two weeks have now gone by and no military operations have been launched yet.

Thirdly, all of my interlocutors stressed the importance of non-military measures to fight international terrorism as part of a systematic and long-term strategy. I would like to add that in my talks there was no discussion of possible military measures, that being the left to the competence of the Ministers of Defence and their scheduled meetings.

In this context, emphasis was placed not only on the need to constitute, but also to preserve, the broadest possible coalition, and a significant role for the United Nations. My American interlocutors emphasised their satisfaction over the results that have been achieved and their interest in seeing a positive evolution in some important countries, such as, for instance, Libya and Iran, in the fight against international terrorism.

I recalled that Italy maintains friendly and cooperative relations with these countries rooted in historical and geographical reasons and in traditional economic ties. Italy also considers the complete involvement of all countries in the fight against international terrorism to be of great importance. In this sense, and in the absolute respect of the internal situations of every country, we will go on developing relations to foster the full integration of such countries into the international community.

Great importance was given to relations with Russia in its growing role as an essential partner in the major political and economic decisions at European and world level.

Moreover, a vital element of this strategy lies in our ability to extinguish regional hotbeds of tension starting with the Middle East and the Balkans. I assured my interlocutors that Italy and the European Union will continue to work in this direction. In a world full of doubts and dangers, the meeting between Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat constitutes a ray of hope on the possibility of resuming the path of peace whatever objective difficulties there may be.

Of great interest was my lengthy talk with the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

I gave him immediate assurance of Italy's strong interest, and likewise that of the European Union, in maintaining the great coalition against international terrorism under "the aegis of the United Nations" as affirmed in the conclusions of the Extraordinary European Council of September 21.

To this regard, we discussed the possibility of a further evolution in the fight against international terrorism that the United Nations has long been conducting - I recall for instance the twelve Conventions on the matter that have already been negotiated within the UN - for the creation of binding and operational rules at world level.

Nobody can imagine that this is an easy task. But many feel, as I also pointed out in my talks in Washington, the importance of such an evolution as an essential element for a global strategy in which military operations are of less and less importance, being able to be integrated and replaced by an international system of rules and effective controls.

We agreed to stay in contact to develop this important evolution in international law. We recalled the importance of the Indian initiative aimed at incorporating into a new Convention - the text of which will be submitted to the General Assembly for examination within the next few days - all the existing main elements in the above mentioned twelve United Nations Conventions Nations on terrorism, and of the Russian initiative of a Convention in the field of the fight against nuclear terrorism that will also be submitted to the General Assembly for examination.

A few days ago a new important draft Resolution of the United Nations Security Council was finalised. Presented by the United States, it aims at soliciting all States to strengthen their cooperation in fighting and isolating international terrorism, providing also for a mechanism to monitor the application of the Resolution itself. On this ample project, to a large extent focused on the control of financial flows and on cooperation in the exchange of information, unanimous consensus was obtained among the members of the Security Council and it is likely to be formally adopted this very evening so as to function as a reference frame for the meetings of the General Assembly on the topic of terrorism that are scheduled to begin on October 1st. This is a text of great importance.

A critical element for the success of this strategy within the United Nations is the time factor. It is necessary to show that we are able, in the narrow time frame available to us, to obtain satisfactory results in defining a binding juridical framework at world level of rules and procedures in the fight against terrorism.

In this perspective, and with particular regard to the financial aspects of the fight against terrorism, yesterday's Council of Ministers approved a Decree Law providing urgent measures regarding the freezing of assets, as well as other financial measures vis-à-vis the Taleban regime in Afghanistan. This provision is absolutely coherent with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1333 of December 2000 and the Regulation issued by the Council of the European Union of March 2001.

A last point on my talks with Kofi Annan: the United Nations Secretary-General underlined to me the importance for our country to proceed as soon as possible with the ratification of the two last conventions, the first against terrorist bomb attacks of January 1998 and the second against the financing of terrorism of December 1999.

I will make only a brief comment on my meeting with mayor Giuliani and with the Italian community.

I did not feel at all any sense of criticism or reservation towards Italy's solidarity with the Italo-Americans and our fellow countrymen who are still missing, of which there appear to be ten.

Rudoph Giuliani told me he was moved that a large number of the bodies out of the seven thousand or so missing people will never be found. This is the reason why the first reconstruction effort will be to erect a shrine in the area of the collapse to commemorate each of the missing people and to give their families a place to remember them.

Our community and the members of the Italo-American world with whom I spoke now await with great interest the visit of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies the Hon. Casini and of Minister Tremaglia as well as the scheduled visit of the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to the United States.

These are the conclusions of my meetings in Washington and New York.

The future holds some tough times, full of unknown factors. Our country has a role to play, respecting the continuity of its foreign policy which is shared when it comes to its basic choices by a large majority of our political forces.

This support is essential for Italy to continue to operate, fully loyal to its membership of the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance, in favour of any initiative that can foster peace and security for the entire international community.