Guterres in Italy: with Conte a common line on multilateralism; UNSG praises Italy for commitment on UN agenda

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ROME, DECEMBER 18 –  The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte welcomed today in the historic surroundings of Villa Madama the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. The meeting closed the first day of Guterres’ visit to Italy.

“His presence here is a testimony of the strong ties that bind Italy with the United Nations, whose 75th birthday we will celebrate next year”, said Conte: “Italy is a firm believer in an effective multilateralism to face global challenges. We are firm supporters of the action of the United Nations whose values we share in terms of peace, security, the fight against inequalities, as well as gender inclusion and equality”.

Migrants, climate change, the spread of populist movements, human rights and the crisis in Libya were all topics on the agenda. Conte offered strong support to the action of Guterres’ special envoy in Libya Ghassan Salame, so that fightings will stop as soon as possible and the political process could start again: “We look forward that the Berlin Conference could be held in January, as soon as possible”.

Guterres argued that “Libya is today a cancer that projects instability and conflict in large regions of Africa, namely in the Sahel. And we see a network of terrorism expanding from the Sahel to Lake Chad, and now with appearances in the DRC, in Mozambique. It is clear that we’re not winning the battle against terrorism in the Sahel. For this reason peace in Libya is an absolute must”. The UN chief said that it is “absolutely essential” to reach a ceasefire and immediately after jump-start a Libyan-led process of political discussions allowing for a political solution for the country. He expressed frustration that the arms embargo established by the Security Council has been violated by several member states who are saying publicly that they are doing so, “which is something that I believe is unacceptable in relation to international law”.

On migration, Guterres praised “the traditional hospitality, and the strong commitment of the Italian government. This is a European question that needs to be addressed with European solidarity”, he said adding that countries like Greece and Italy, that are on the front line, “deserve and must have much stronger support from the European Union”. It is unacceptable to see people dying in the Mediterranean, said the Secretary General, “very positively impressed by the decision that rescue at sea is maintained, by the fact that nobody will be condemned for rescuing lives”.

Tomorrow Guterres will be visiting the UN facilities in Brindisi: “Only thanks to the warmth of the Italian people and to the generosity of the Italian government, it is possible for the U.N. to be in Brindisi, in Rome, in Florence, in Torino and in Trieste, as the Prime Minister said, but also in Perugia, and Venice”, he remarked.

Documentation: transcript of Guterres and Conte’s press conference:

Buona sera, It is for me an enormous pleasure to be here, in Rome, with Prime Minister Conte. Indeed, Italy is a fundamental supporter of multilateralism and of the U.N. in particular. Italy’s commitment is essential in all of our activities, from peace and security, to sustainable development, to the protection and enhancement of human rights and to climate action. And indeed, I will be visiting Brindisi tomorrow. And, only thanks to the warmth of the Italian people and to the generosity of the Italian government, it is possible for the U.N. to be in Brindisi, in Rome, in Florence, in Torino and in Trieste, as the Prime Minister said, but also in Perugia, and Venice. And this is, as I said, only possible thanks to the very strong commitment and support of the Italian government, and I am extremely grateful for that commitment and that support.

I arrived in Rome, coming from Madrid. And in Madrid, we are all disappointed with the results of the COP25. But I would say we have lost a battle against climate change but we will not lose the war. We are determined, and I believe 2020 is the year of make it or break things. And one of the reasons why I believe we can win the war is the fact that Italy, together with the UK, will be leading the preparation of the COP26. The pre COP will take place in Europe, as the youth summit. And at the same time, Europe is part of the European Union and the European Union is today a very solid reference in relation to climate action.

The commitment of the European Union to carbon neutrality in 2050. The important decisions taken by the commission will give us the possibility in 2020, to have a serious discussion with all the other great emittors to make sure that they’re able, at the end of 2020, to comply with what the science tells us we need to do, which means to reach global carbon neutrality in 2050, to not to allow the temperature to rise above 1.5. And simultaneously, to reduce immediately the emissions; emissions are still growing, making a reduction of 45% in relation to 2010 until 2030.

With the leadership that has been shown by the European Union and with the strong commitment of Italy and UK in the preparation of the COP, and of Italy, in the presidency of the G20 in 2021, I am confident that we will be able to win the war, even if we have lost a battle in Madrid. On the other hand, we had a very meaningful discussion about the situation in the Mediterranean in general, but in particularly in Libya.

Libya is today a cancer that projects instability and conflict in large regions of Africa, namely in the Sahel. And we see a network of terrorism expanding from the Sahel to Lake Chad, and now with appearances in the DRC, in Mozambique. And it is clear that we’re not winning the battle against terrorism in the Sahel. And so peace in Libya is an absolute must for the peace and stability in large regions of Africa and for the stability in northern Africa. We believe that it is absolutely essential to reach a ceasefire. We believe that it is absolutely essential to work after that ceasefire, a Libyan-led process of political discussions allowing for a political solution for the country.

I feel very frustrated as Secretary General with an arms embargo that the Security Council has established. And the fact that several member states are violating that arms embargo and are saying publicly that they are doing so, which is something that I believe is unacceptable in relation to international law.

On the other hand, I’d like to express my appreciation for what has been the traditional hospitality, and the strong commitment of the Italian government in relation to migration and asylum. I would like to say that I believe that this is a European question that needs to be addressed with European solidarity. And I believe that countries like Greece and Italy that are in the front line, deserve and must have much stronger support from the European Union. And we will do everything to contribute to, for that support to become a more solid reality than today.

It is unacceptable to see people dying in the Mediterranean.  I’m very positively impressed by the decision that rescue at sea is maintained, by the fact that nobody will be condemned for rescuing lives and I am, as I said, extremely appreciative of the policy determined by the Italian government in this regard.

On the other hand, I would like to say how much we are committed to work together in all the areas of the UN agenda, and to say that we believe that with Italy’s contribution in the next year and the following one, we will be able to make progress in all the key aspects in which the international community is facing very dramatic challenges, be it climate change, be it migration, be it the impact of technology. Italy is a very strong supporter of the U.N. and we are extremely grateful for that. (@OnuItalia)