Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni Silveri spoke about Syria in an interview during his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia last week.
“Italy and Saudi Arabia share the basic philosophy that Assad has to go. The role he has played in the last few years makes it impossible to see him as the future leader of Syria,” he said during the interview with Arab news.
“The goal is a future without Assad. In order to reach this goal, we need to have a cease-fire or, to be more accurate, a cessation of hostilities, the initiation of a transition process to build a non-sectarian and united Syria, and, as this process moves forward, the departure of Assad from power.”
Gentiloni appreciates Saudi Arabia’s role in bringing the Syrian opposition together. “We hope that the negotiation process, led by UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura will be successful. We hope that the Syrian opposition will continue to take the chance of participating in these negotiations,” he said.
“Thanks to Saudi Arabia, the Syrian opposition decided to accept negotiations as the way forward, after many meetings of the International Syria Support Group in which Italy took part. The goal is a future without Bashar Assad. In order to reach this goal, we need to have a cease-fire or, to be more accurate, cessation of hostilities, the initiation of a transition process to build a non-sectarian and united Syria, and as this process moves forward, Assad’s departure from power.”
Humanitarian tragedy in Syria
He highlighted the humanitarian tragedy in Syria.
“We have more or less 20 besieged areas that are not reachable by humanitarian corridors and convoys. Seventeen of these areas are besieged by the Assad regime. The regime does not allow humanitarian convoys to reach these areas. We hope that the negotiation process, led by UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura, who by the way is an Italian diplomat, will be successful. We hope that the Syrian opposition will continue to take the chance of participating in these negotiations. It indeed is a risk.”
“We have a tragedy in Syria. Europe is also suffering the consequences of this tragedy with the surge in Syrians on the move. The impression we have is that a solution different from the political and diplomatic one is very hard to imagine.”
“What is absolutely true is that we have a humanitarian tragedy before us. After last February, when there was a cessation of hostilities on the ground, I think that was an extraordinary achievement for the international community. Now the situation is turning difficult again.”
The Italian foreign minister dismissed any ideas of a military solution, saying that “There can’t be a military solution. It would be an illusion to think of a military solution as “the” solution to the Syrian crisis. We tried the military solution.”
“By we, I mean, the Syrian opposition. Several other countries have tried the military solution for three/four years. Did it work? I don’t think so. It is, therefore, more reasonable to use the leverage of the international community, and especially of the US and Russia, to try to put a diplomatic solution in place.”
“Going back to violence is something we should try to prevent. I don’t think we can accept the idea of going back to a military solution. By the way, all 19 governments, sitting around the table in Vienna accepted the idea of a diplomatic solution and of a transition process. We should try to utilize this option to the fullest. It would be too dangerous to go back to the military solution. From my point of view, a military solution is a sheer illusion.”