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‘Nuclear Iran would permanently change region’

Italian foreign minister warns of potential Middle East arms race, praises Israel, at Herzliya Conference

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi Di Sant'Agata in 2011. (photo credit: AP)
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi Di Sant'Agata in 2011. (photo credit: AP)

Italy’s foreign minister on Wednesday said that a nuclear Iran would permanently change the political landscape of the Middle East and urged immediate action to prevent a regional nuclear arms race.

Speaking at the 2013 Herzliya Conference in the eponymous Tel Aviv suburb, Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata said that even if a nuclear-armed Iran were to act rationally, it would still constitute an unacceptable international threat.

“Under its own nuclear umbrella, Tehran would be free to raise and lower the volume of regional tension as best suits its national interest,” he said. “With a nuclear Iran, the rules of the Middle Eastern game would not only change overnight; they would change irreversibly.”

Terzi said a nuclear-armed Iran would trigger a regional arms race, with several other countries starting unsanctioned nuclear programs to keep pace with Tehran.

The international community has levied heavy sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, which Western powers believe may be militaristic in nature. Tehran denies the claims, saying its nuclear program is peaceful and intended to provide the country with nuclear energy.

Concerning the two-year civil war in Syria, the Italian diplomat said that the world “can no longer afford delays in our action.”

“No example is better than Syria to remind us that the Assad regime and its allies do not necessarily act under similar constraints. We are witnessing the emergence of fast-rising economic and military powers, in different regions, which pursue their interest with the power of a state and the flexibility of a non-state actor.”

“These are decades of asymmetric diplomacy,” Terzi said.

Israel, however, was a point of praise for the visiting diplomat. “Israel not only lies at their geographical center,” he said, “it is also at their frontline. As the dust settles, and room grows for new ideas, Israel will be the first and foremost engine of a new path towards a more secure and peaceful Middle East.”

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