March 12, 2019

How we stood against Italy reopening its embassy in Damascus

Italy says it's not restoring political relations with the Syrian regime.

“We are not sending an ambassador to Damascus.” This is what an Italian diplomat recently told The Syria Campaign.

It’s good news. And in no small part due to the collective action of the 5,000 of us who protested the Italian foreign minister’s remarks that his government is considering reopening its embassy in Syria.   

Together we took an important stand.

In response to minister Milanezi’s remarks we quickly launched a campaign that was joined by thousands of us urging Italy not to re-establish relations with a regime that is responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The campaign got press coverage in the UK, Spain, and Italy.

A couple of weeks after, we followed up with a letter to members of the Italian foreign ministry expressing our concerns and requesting a meeting to discuss Italy’s position. And last Wednesday, our staff in New York met with a member of Italy’s permanent mission to the United Nations.

We were told that our voices were heard at the highest level in Rome and that Italy will not be restoring political relations with the Syrian regime. We were assured of Italy’s commitment to the EU’s position on Syria, which is to keep Assad isolated and sanctioned and to withhold reconstruction funding from the regime, and to UN Security Council resolutions that demand  credible political transition in Syria.

Reopening the Italian embassy in Damascus would have set in motion similar moves by other governments, and together we showed them there will be huge backlash against doing business as usual with a regime that continues to kill, torture, and forcibly disappear civilians. Over the next months we’ll have to make sure Italy keeps its commitment and stand against countries that attempt to whitewash Assad’s crimes. But for now, we wanted to share the (rare) good news, a testament to the power of our work together.

Thank you for being a part of it.