Antonio Tajani in Israel. On Friday, Italy’s Foreign Minister landed in the Middle Eastern country, where he met with his local counterpart Eli Cohen – amid one of the most severe crises to shake the region in the past decades. He brought Rome’s solidarity and closeness to all the victims of Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israeli civilians and reiterated that he will do everything in his power to free the hostages held in the Gaza Strip.
- “Hamas is like ISIS; it kills like the Nazis. They are murderous terrorists and must be stopped,” he said in Netivot near the Gazan border, echoing earlier remarks from the United States Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin (who said that Hamas’ atrocities are “worse than what I saw with ISIS.”).
Broaden dialogue to narrow conflict. Having remarked on where the responsibility for this war lies, Minister Tajani sought to strike the chord of responsibility and de-escalation in his talks with Minister Cohen. “I confirmed Italy’s commitment against terrorism and strong peace action to prevent escalation. Of course, we are working so that Israel’s response is proportionate and there are no civilian casualties.”
- His words encompass the risk of tensions spilling out of Israel and Gaza – such as in Israel’s Northern border with Lebanon, where Hamas-aligned Hezbollah displays increasing assertiveness (though it has stopped short of a full-fledged attack so far).
- That border is particularly relevant for Rome, if only because of the 1,200 Italian soldiers staffing the UNIFIL stability-fostering mission. “They are peacekeepers, a guarantee of peace, and our appeal is not to start a new season that could set the Middle East on fire,” said the Italian FM.
Efforts through diplomacy. FM Tajani’s visit to Israel is the latest leg of an all-of-government diplomatic push to promote stabilisation and the containment of violence to minimise civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip. Speaking from the Republic of Congo, where she was on a State visit, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni noted Rome is engaged in talks through the Quint format as well as with partners across the MENA region and seeks to maintain talks going “at the highest possible level.”
- Over the past few days, she has spoken with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his Lebanese homologue Najib Mikati, as well as the heads of State and government in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan, to foster de-escalation.
- Meanwhile, FM Tajani had travelled to Egypt (on the border with Gaza) and engaged with homologues across the area, including from Algeria, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. He is set to travel to Jordan right after his Israeli mission – following in the footsteps of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Image: Antonio Tajani’s X profile