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Italian Rapprochement with Assad: Supported by Right, Constrained by West

Normalization will anger Italy's allies in the European Union, Enab Baladi writes.
Italian Rapprochement with Assad: Supported by Right, Constrained by West

With rapid and successive steps, and under humanitarian cover, Italy took the initiative to respond to the earthquake disaster in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime, to be the first European country to send two aid convoys through Lebanon on the seventh day of the earthquake, which included four ambulances and six packages of medical supplies.

Despite the sanctions imposed on him for his organization’s involvement in supporting the Syrian regime, Pope Francis received the head of the Red Crescent, Khaled Hboubati in Rome, to talk about developments in the humanitarian response in Syria.

Zelensky Imposes Sanctions on Assad on Revolution Anniversary

Hboubati also met with the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, Francesco Rocca, and several stakeholders in the humanitarian context, according to what the Syrian Red Crescent reported last January.

Francesca Scalinghi, an Italian writer and activist interested in Syria, said that the Red Crescent is a “theoretically neutral” organization that can be exploited by parties wanting to support the Syrian regime.

Scalinghi explained to Enab Baladi that Italy is taking advantage of the external image of humanitarian organizations close to the Syrian regime to take diplomatic steps with a “humanitarian cover.”

Although Intersos is an NGO that claims to be neutral, Scalinghi believes the organization works closely with the central government in Damascus through the Red Crescent.

Right-Led Steps

Before assuming the presidency, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni showed her support for Assad to remain in power and support him, in addition to her support for his Russian ally and the militias of Iran and Hezbollah to remain on the Syrian map.

Meloni leads the far-right Brothers of Italy party, which makes her support for the Syrian regime linked to claims that “the Christian community in Syria still exists, thanks to the government of the Syrian regime, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah,” she said during a press interview in 2018.

This is reflected in Meloni’s statement on the Russian presence in Syria, where she said that Russia is an essential part of the solution in Syria and must play an important role in that.

Meloni and her party support the Syrian regime from an ideological standpoint that is hostile to Muslims in general and to jihadist Islamic movements in particular, and believe that the Syrian regime and its allies are fighting a war against “terrorism and Islamic extremism.”

In other news, a 2019 report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, entitled “Targeting Christian places of worship in Syria is a threat to world heritage,” stated that Syrian regime forces are responsible for 61% of the targeting of Christian places of worship.

Red lines

The European Union continues to demonstrate its firm position rejecting normalization with the Syrian regime without the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, raising questions about Italy’s ability to take serious and clear steps toward rapprochement with the Syrian regime.

Dr. Faisal Abbas Mohammed, a professor of Middle Eastern studies, ruled out that mixed signals by the Italian government towards the Syrian regime and mutual contacts could lead to normalization with the Syrian regime.

He attributed this to the fact that normalization will anger Italy’s allies in the European Union, which is a cornerstone of it, and in the US-led NATO, which rejects political normalization with a regime whose “track record is full of criminal acts.”

According to Faisal Abbas Mohammed, despite Meloni’s previous stance on the Syrian regime, it is trying to pursue foreign policies that do not contradict the European Union. He is referring to the decline in Meloni’s public support for the Syrian regime and its position in support of Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

“The Meloni government’s steps towards the regime will probably not cross European and American red lines, but they will satisfy, to one degree or another, the right-wing allied with it and the Italian Christian voter, to whom the Italian right-wing forces suggest that the Syrian regime is protecting minorities in Syria.”

This came after the Italian Foreign Ministry announced that it was working to assess the situation in Syria to see if it was possible to reopen its embassy in Damascus in January 2019, noting that the stability of the situation there “remains a prerequisite for opening the embassy,” while its embassy remained closed until this year.

The Italian, French and British embassies were closed in Damascus in early 2012 in protest against the regime’s repressive practices against the Syrian people during the Syrian revolution in 2011.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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