Syrians urge Italy's far-right government not to renew ties with Assad regime

Syrians urge Italy's far-right government not to renew ties with Assad regime
Italy's far-right government is said to be mulling over whether to renew ties with Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria.
2 min read
22 January, 2019
Syrians urge Italy not to renew ties with brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad [Getty]
Syrians are pressing Italy's far-right government to halt possible plans to re-establish ties with Bashar al-Assad's regime, with thousands signing a petition demanding Rome reverse its decision.

Italy is considering whether to become the first European country to renew diplomatic relations with Damascus, which were cut following the regime's brutal crackdown on protests that erupted in 2011.

Earlier this month, Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said that Rome was reviewing whether to re-open its embassy in Damascus.

"We are working to assess if and when," he said, according to ANSA.

"Naturally it is very important that the situation in Syria heads towards a more normal outlook. Things on this front have not accelerated."

It comes as the EU slapped more sanctions on Syrian regime figures and entities, in relation to chemical weapons attacks ascribed to Assad's regime.

Activist group The Syria Campaign started a petitition this week to put pressure on the regime to halt moves to normalise relations with Damascus.

"[Foreign Minister] Milanesi... thinks his comment will fly under the radar because the world's attention is shifting away from Syria - but if we act now we can change that," The Syria Campaign said in the petition.

"Let's flood the foreign ministry with messages and force them to publicly pledge that they will not re-open the embassy and legitimise Assad's crimes."

The activist group pointed out that the Italian government backed down on attempts to block a ban on fuel to the Assad regime - which were likely used by the air force to drop barrel bombs on civilian areas - following a similar campaign by Syrians.

"Let's show the decision-makers at the Italian Foreign Ministry that until there's real peace in Syria - one that is based on justice and political legitimacy - we will not stand by while they shake hands with a mass murderer," the group added. 

Italy's moves towards normalisation come amid regional rapprochement between several Arab states and the Syrian regime.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir visited Damascus in December, while the UAE and Bahrain have both reopened their embassies in Damascus.

Syria's war has around 500,000 killed, the vast majority civilians in towns and cities targeted by regime and Russian aircraft.

Details of the petitition here