Italian FM reveals 'supportive' agenda ahead of visit

Frattini says "message regarding the importance of defending Israel's security is all the more important following the attack in J'lem."

Frattini 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Frattini 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
In a private briefing with the Israeli press regarding his forthcoming trip to the Jewish state, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he wants to deliver Israel "a strong message of support." Frattini, who is scheduled to arrive on Monday, outlined some of the issues he plans to discuss with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad during his brief visit to the region. Frattini is also scheduled to meet with opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud MK Silvan Shalom, as well as visit Yad Vashem before leaving Israel on Wednesday. "Our message regarding the importance of defending Israel's security is all the more important following the attack in Jerusalem last week," Frattini said. "Consequently, we rule out any negotiations with Iran not preceded by Iran's suspending the process of uranium enrichment. We are convinced the embargo must be properly applied and want to verify that it is really being applied, even with the Melli Bank [Iran's largest bank]." Emphasizing Italy's tough stance on Iran, Frattini recalled "Italy's firmness in refusing to meet with President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad while he was in Rome recently, which resulted in Iran recalling the Iranian ambassador in Rome." However, Frattini discouraged a military attack by Israel against Iran, saying it would be "a catastrophe, not only to Israel but to the whole world." Frattini stressed "the importance of giving financial and political aid in strengthening the Lebanese army, today too weak to intervene in disarming the Hizbullah militias as requested by the UNIFIL forces [which include an important Italian contingent]." In this context, Frattini said, it was vital that Syria commit to Europe and the West and distance itself from Iran. "Syria could play a very positive role [in the region] and its agreement is necessary for the disarming of all militias in Lebanon," he said. Israel, Syria and Lebanon must reach a global agreement without singling out small piecemeal issues, he said. Egypt's cooperation on the other front, Frattini continued, "can continue to help maintain the truce with Hamas in Gaza." As for investment in the Palestinian territories, Frattini said that funds would no longer be slated for individual projects. Instead, financial aid would be channeled directly through the PA, he said. "We must look at the global picture and deliver the aid directly into President Mazen's [Mahmoud Abbas] hands to avoid losing funds to corruption as in the past." A new bilateral agreement between Israel and Italy regarding military technology was on the horizon, he said, without going into detail. Lastly, Frattini said a Mediterranean expansion of NATO to include Israel would be beneficial.