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Security Council – Open Debate on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security”

Statement by Italy at the Security Council Open Debate on Maintenance of international peace and security: Comprehensive review of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa —

At the outset, I would like to thank the Russian Presidency for organizing this debate. A regular, comprehensive review of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, region with a truly remarkable potential, unique cultural heritage to protect and preserve but marred by persistent instability, is a welcome and necessary initiative.

As a Mediterranean country, Italy is directly affected by such instability. For this reason the security challenge in the Mediterranean was a centerpiece of our Security Council Presidency, last November. We align with the statement to be delivered by the European Union.

Mr. President,

Our objective must be to chart a common way forward that emphasizes the pressing need for stability as a strategic imperative, and opens the door to building a positive agenda of shared peace, pluralism and prosperity, and inclusion.

In Libya, our foremost priority is to assist and support the advancement of the Libyan-owned political and reconciliation process, with the goal of ending the transition through the electoral process. In this context, it is of the utmost importance that all relevant stakeholders remain fully aligned and unified in their support to Special Representative Ghassan Salame’ and his Action Plan.

We strongly support the aspirations of the Libyan people for stability, democracy and national reconciliation. While there has been good progress towards these goals, the road ahead is still challenging, and it is clear that there are no shortcuts.

The threat of terrorism remains a key concern, as we have seen from the heinous attacks against the High Electoral Commission in Tripoli last month and most recently in Benghazi, which we strongly condemn.

We are following with extreme concern the evolution of the security environment on the ground, in Sebha, a crucial area for our collective effort to address the issue of the trafficking of human beings, and in the Oil Crescent, where clashes may put at risk many important oil facilities. We are particularly worried for the situation in Derna. We join the UN in calling for an immediate ceasefire to provide humanitarian support to the population.

Preparations for elections should be advanced by following a step-by-step and inclusive approach, first and foremost by putting in place the necessary political, technical and legislative measures for success. We encourage all Libyan political actors to converge towards a shared vision for the future, based on a common understanding on the constitutional framework, electoral reform and a pledge to respect the legitimacy of electoral outcomes.

We also continue working in close partnership with the Libyan authorities in order to tackle the scourge of illicit human trafficking and to disrupt its business model. Italy has been largely alone, together with Libya, in bearing the burden of these flows and saving countless lives at sea.

This is why we are tirelessly advocating for a truly collective response to the security challenges in the Mediterranean, starting with illegal migration. It is not a temporary emergency, or a matter for coastal countries alone. It is a strategic imperative, first and foremost for the European Union and its Member States, to finally join together, with true unity of purpose and a sense of shared responsibility.

Advancing the collective fight against traffickers also requires working together to strengthen the capacity of Governments in countries of origin and transit to control their territory and borders.

The UN system also has a key role to play here. We have been consistently working in partnership with UNHCR and IOM to enhance their role on the ground, to ensure protection and direct assistance to migrants and refugees, to improve conditions in the centers, and to increase assisted voluntary returns and resettlements.

Mr. President,

Turning to the greater Middle East. In Lebanon, the holding of parliamentary elections is an important step to reinforce Lebanese democratic institutions, but the path towards stability is still long. In addition to our role within UNIFIL, we promote the ISG roadmap to support the country’s institutions and security forces, and in this spirit we hosted the ‘Rome II’ Ministerial Conference last March.

In neighboring Syria, we continue to encourage a genuine commitment by the Syrian parties and international stakeholders to meaningfully engage in the framework of the UN-led Geneva process.

We are also strongly committed to keeping the goal of a fair and lasting peace in the Middle East high on the international agenda, and underline the pressing need for direct negotiations between the parties leading to a two-State solution. The current situation in Gaza is deeply alarming, both from a humanitarian perspective and for its detrimental impact on the prospects for peace.

In Yemen, where the situation is rapidly and alarmingly deteriorating, we remain diplomatically engaged in promoting regional dialogue as a tool to advance the prospects for de-escalation and support UN Special Envoy efforts to revitalize the political process.

Lastly, we also reiterate our conviction that the JCPoA represents an important element of the global non-proliferation architecture and a pillar of regional security. We remain committed to the full and effective implementation of the agreement and encourage Iran to do the same.

Mr. President,

The challenges before us are more daunting and complex. But this should not deter us. Charting a successful path towards enduring peace and security in the Middle East and North Africa will have the potential to project stability and prosperity across three continents.

I thank you.