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Italy's South Tyrol may serve as model for Ukraine's east -- Italian FM

Italian autonomous region Trentino-Alto-Adige, also known as South Tyrol, can serve as a model for the settlement of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine's east that could help to preserve the country's territorial integrity, the Italian foreign minister told a local daily on Wednesday.

In an interview with La Stampa daily Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that "the model of our South Tyrol may suit the eastern regions of Ukraine."

"There is certainly a different context but this way we may find a solution to the preservation of the Ukrainian sovereignty and protection of its borders with the respect of minorities' rights," Gentiloni said.

South Tyrol is one of Italy's wealthiest and most developed regions that was granted a considerable level of self-government with exclusive and legislative powers as well as a special fiscal regime. The region's majority of population is of Austro-Bavarian heritage speaking German, while about a quarter of the population speaks Italian.

The Italian foreign minister also said that Rome respects the US stance on the Ukrainian conflict and all decisions made by Washington in this regard, but "believes that supplies of weapons to Ukraine would not solve the problem and would only worsen the situation."

Speaking on Tuesday in New York at the council of the American-Italian relations Gentiloni said Rome considered Ukraine's joining NATO inappropriate and counter-productive.

"There is no alternative to the political dialogue and Italy does not share any decision, which includes a military component," the top Italian diplomat said.

Last Sunday, the New York Times newspaper reported that the Unites States considered supplying arms to Ukrainian forces.

US President Barack Obama said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday he hoped that the crisis in Ukraine would be settled diplomatically and the situation would not go as far as supplies of arms.

However, the US leader confirmed at the same time that he had instructed his aides to scrutinize a possibility of such supplies to Ukraine if the diplomatic efforts flopped.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev said on Tuesday he believed that should Washington begin weapons supplies to Kiev, the United States would confirm once again it is a party to the armed conflict in that country.

Patrushev recalled Obama's statement to the effect Washington had been involved in the government coup in Ukraine, which the US leader described as "power transition" and that US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has repeatedly said that Washington over the past 12 years had spent more than 5 billion dollars on so-called democratic reform in Ukrainian society.

Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands of people have fled Ukraine's embattled southeast as a result of clashes between Ukrainian troops and local self-defense forces during Kiev's military operation, conducted since mid-April 2014, to regain control over parts of the breakaway territories, which call themselves the Donetsk and Lugansk People's republics.

[Source: Itar Tass, Rome, 11Feb15]

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