Italy ready for Ossetia response
Italy is ready to send troops to South Ossetia if the European Union decides to intervene in the conflict between Georgia and Russia, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday.
The minister said he would consider deploying Italian soldiers to the region in the event that French Foreign Minsiter Bernard Kouchner recommends EU involvement after his mediation mission to Tbilisi and Moscow this week.
However, Frattini stressed that Italy could not support the creation of a ''European anti-Russian coalition'' over the conflict.
Russia has received international criticism for bombing targets throughout Georgia in disproportionate retaliation after Georgian troops attacked separatist South Ossetia last week.
The region has had de facto independence from Georgia since 1992, since when Russian peace-keeping troops have been present.
''Moscow must understand that peace-keeping in the region that has previously been entrusted exclusively to its military forces must be discussed with the international community,'' Frattini said.
''But it would be negative for Europe to create a sort of coalition against Russia. It's important that Europe is the 27 (member states) and that it does not divide into groups and little cliques''.
''Europe must be the bridge between the United States and Russia if it wants to be a major political player,'' he said.
Frattini added that Italian premier Silvio Belusconi was exerting a '''moral suasion'' on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, ''firmly based on the personal trust that connects them'', to end the conflict.
He also told ANSA he was ''optimistic'' for a positive resolution to the crisis following telephone consultations with foreign ministers from the other G7 countries (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan and Canada).
OPPOSITION CALLS FOR CONDEMNATION OF RUSSIA.
Opposition politicians hit out at Frattini for failing to take a serious stance against Russia, with Italy of Values Senator Stefano Pedica describing his comments as ''incredible''.
''Defending an aggressor is disturbing. I wonder what lies behind these declarations - perhaps a message dictated by Prime Minister (Silvio) Berlusconi to his dictator-friend Putin?'' he said.
''If the crisis in Georgia is not resolved the only solution is to withdraw Italian diplomatic ties with Russia,'' he added.
Franco Monaco of the Democratic Party meanwhile slammed Berlusconi for his ''inadequate'' response to the conflict.
''The premier is not the pope,'' he said.
''It's not enough to let Putin know that Italy wants peace - we need action and political judgement including the open condemnation of his friend Putin's disproportionate and brutal military intervention,'' he said.
Foreign Undersecretary Enzo Scotti said he will report to a joint session of the Italian parliament's foreign affairs commissions on Wednesday following Kouchner's recommendations to the EU.