Minister of Foreign Affairs Renato Ruggiero
Speech to the Joint Committees of the Chamber and Senate
Developments in NATO regarding the terrorist attacks in the USA
and the application of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty
Rome, Italy
October 4, 2001

Honourable Senators,

Honourable Deputies,

Since the decision taken by the Atlantic Council on 12 September, with its reference to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, there has been an unceasing series of consultations at every level within the NATO framework with our American allies on the results of their investigations into the terrorist attacks of 11 September and on the steps to be taken within the Atlantic Alliance as a result.

An important Council consultation on 20 September with the American Deputy Secretary of State, Armitage, who had taken part in a series of meetings in Moscow a few days previously, was followed on 26 September by the informal meeting of the Alliance Defence Ministers, at which Italy was represented by Minister Martino and the United States by Deputy Defence Secretary Wolfowitz.

I would like at this point to remind you that this was the meeting that should have taken place in Napoli/Pozzuoli but was transferred to Brussels at the specific request of the NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson.

Lord Robertson put this request to the Prime Minister personally during a meeting at the NATO Headquarters on 21 September, shortly before the extraordinary meeting of the European Council the same day.

On that occasion Prime Minister Berlusconi had an opportunity to illustrate the position of the Italian Government to the NATO Secretary General, underlining the strong support for NATO expressed by Italian public opinion and the Parliament, where both majority and opposition had reacted in unison, essentially, to the tragic events in New York and Washington.

The Prime Minister also confirmed to Lord Robertson that Italy would express solidarity with the other NATO allies in any decisions the Alliance would be adopting.

Finally, he insisted on the need to ensure at all costs that the western reaction could not be interpreted in any way as a confrontation with the Muslim world, and underlined the fact that any military action would have to be accompanied by political, economic, financial and international police cooperation initiatives involving the highest possible number of states, including Muslim countries.

The Brussels meeting subsequently agreed unanimously with this position, which American Deputy Defence Secretary Wolfowitz, also underscored in person to Minister Martino during a bilateral meeting in the margins of the Session.

The NATO Defence Ministers also met the Russian Defence Minister Sergej Ivanov in the Brussels headquarters. One of the key points to emerge from this meeting, which was of the utmost significance, was a marked sharing of concerns over the dramatic leap in intensity in the latest acts of international terrorism. The Alliance countries and Russia will be working more closely together from now on to tackle this phenomenon.

It is true, of course, that the so-called “founding act” of the NATO-Russia partnership, signed in Paris in 1997, already included terrorism as a possible subject for cooperation. However, the attacks of 11 September have greatly increased the urgency and the importance of this aspect of the NATO-Russia relationship, a change that is underlined by the joint high level meeting on the subject of terrorism which took place in Brussels the day before yesterday.

The very positive outcome of yesterday’s talks between Lord Robertson and President Putin, who made a personal point of underlining his determination to deepen this promising and useful cooperation, is further evidence of this common will to strengthen and intensify relations between NATO and Moscow.

I would like to give you at this point a quick overview of the other important consultations Italy has held with our Allies, EU partners and other friendly countries in recent weeks.

These include:

the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the European Union, which took place in Brussels on 21 September and laid the foundations for a coordinated reaction by the international community to the newly intensified challenge of terrorism, to be tackled in all its dimensions.

A few days afterwards, the meeting between Minister Martino and Minister Ivanov in the margins of the NATO-Russia meeting, where Minister Martino’s illustration of the Italian position on terrorism met with the approval of his Russian colleague.

My recent mission to Washington and New York, on the positive outcome of which I reported promptly to Parliament on my return to Rome.

And last in order of time, but certainly not importance, the meeting of the Atlantic Council on 2 October at which the United States provided a full and comprehensive briefing on the outcome of the investigations they had carried out with unprecedented commitment, breadth and depth, to uncover the responsibilities for the terrible attacks of 11 September in New York and Washington. This briefing was given by Ambassador Frank Taylor, who is coordinating the anti-terrorism measures in the Department of State in Washington.

This was a top-secret briefing and I trust you will excuse me for not going into great detail. But I can reveal that it clearly illustrated the responsibilities of the Al-Qaida terrorist network, headed by Osama bin Laden, and the links between this terrorist group and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. I repeat, the information provided at the briefing demonstrated clearly the role played by Al-Qaida in the attacks of 11 September, as all the members of the Atlantic Alliance have acknowledged.

I can also inform you that a similar briefing was held yesterday in Rome, this time on a strictly bilateral basis.

This evidence was important because it enabled the NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, to declare that on the basis of the information thus provided it could be concluded that the attack on the United States on 11 September had been conceived outside America, a factor which removed the grounds for postponing the full activation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty which, as we know, the NATO council had included in its decision of 12 September.

On that same day Ambassador Taylor himself informed Russia of the principal results of the investigations during the high level meeting of experts I mentioned earlier. He then took part in an extraordinary session of the “Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council” (EAPC), which brings together 47 countries and meets at the NATO headquarters in Brussels under the chairmanship of Secretary General Robertson, and explained to these countries the main points that had emerged. I would like to point out here, as I did in the Senate on 13 September, that the members of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council include many countries whose populations are predominantly Muslim.

There can be do doubt that 2 October was a pivotal moment in the investigations and preparations that are being taken forward to give real substance to the wide international coalition against terrorism, in which the countries of the Alliance are an important link.

What can we expect for the future?

The first point we have to make is that the United States of America, the country directly and cruelly hit by the attacks of 11 September, has thus far acted with the utmost caution and responsibility. Washington is not acting in a hurried or impulsive fashion, even though the country has been bitterly shocked by the treacherous and bloody nature of the attacks. The approach that has emerged in America is to base their actions to defeat terrorism on a wide-ranging strategy that draws upon an extensive and varied range of instruments: not just military, but also political, diplomatic, legal, economic and financial. Even if the responsibilities of Al-Qaida and its leader, bin Laden, are clear, there is absolutely no desire to criminalize the Muslim world in any way, or to act in a way that could give rise to a war of religion or – far less – to bring about a confrontation between civilisations, a confrontation that has no reason to exist.

Where does NATO stand in this scenario?

First of all, I wish to observe that the full activation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty on 2 October confirms that the armed attack against the United States must be considered – pursuant to Article 5 itself – as an attack against all the member countries of the Alliance.

In the framework of the operational application of Article 5, during a new meeting of the Atlantic Council yesterday NATO received an initial request from the Americans for measures of solidarity and logistical support, on an individual or collective basis, which range from closer cooperation in exchanging information to permission to fly over national air space, from the intensification of national security measures to the adoption of measures providing financial assistance to countries undertaking to support the fight against terrorism. They also include authorisation for access to ports and airports, the availability of NATO radar planes and the deployment in the Eastern Mediterranean of the Alliance’s Standing Naval Forces.

This brings us up to date with the latest developments and measures taken within the Atlantic Council framework. The silence-consent procedure required for approval of these measures by the Allies has been under way since yesterday and will conclude – barring further requests for postponement – at 1500 hours today.

At the EU level, next Monday I will be attending the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Fifteen Member States, which will be specifically devoted to an in-depth evaluation of all the measures the Community has adopted thus far to combat international terrorism. Work is under way to coordinate with the United States, and with the UN in particular, in setting up a committee of fifteen UN member countries which would have the task of monitoring the implementation of the anti-terrorism measures to guarantee their efficacy. This would be in accordance with the expectations of our Parliament.

Finally, with regard to the work the Italian Government has been taking forward, over the last few days I have illustrated to Parliament all the efforts that have been and are being made at the diplomatic level to underscore the constancy of our commitment to maintain the widest possible coalition of countries to combat international terrorism.

This commitment will focus in coming days on the Mediterranean and Middle East, through a series of visits that I have already announced in Parliament, the operational details of which I am about to finalise.