New Foreign Minister of Italy Likely to Improve Ties to Israel

Italy’s new foreign minister, Enzo Scotti, is expected to continue the process of bettering relations between Italy and Israel begun by his predecessor, Gianni De Michelis.

Scotti, 59, who was interior minister in the outgoing government, formally took up his new post last week after Parliament gave a vote of confidence to the new coalition government, led by Prime Minister Giuliano Amato.

“We appreciate him very much,” said a source at the Israeli Embassy. “We had excellent experiences with him when he was interior minister.

“He was sensitive to our security preoccupations and handled them with sensibility and efficiency, especially after the terrorist attack in Buenos Aires” that took place in March, he said.

“We have no reason to be worried. On the contrary,” he said. “We feel we have a good partner in the foreign minister.

“Generally speaking, it is a good moment for Italian-Israeli relations. We must attribute a lot of this to De Michelis — but I am sure that Scotti will go on and deepen this process, particularly as Italy will be hosting the next round of Middle East peace talks,” he said.

The peace talks are expected to be held in Rome toward the end of August or beginning of September. No date has been set.

Rome was selected as site of the next talks as a compromise between Washington, which the Arabs wanted, and the Middle East, which Israel prefers.

The low-key Scotti, an economist from Naples who was first elected to Parliament in 1968, is a member of the Christian Democratic Party and had been interior minister since 1990.

In previous governments, he served as minister of labor and of culture, among other positions.

His style is expected to be quite different from his predecessor De Michelis, a flamboyant and sometimes controversial figure known for his portly figure, long hair and love of disco-dancing as well as for his foreign policy initiatives.

In an interview with the newspaper La Repubblica, Scotti admitted that he was something of a neophyte as far as foreign policy goes, but said he is a fast learner.

In an interview with the newspaper La Stampa, Scotti’s predecessor, De Michelis, had some advice.

“I advise him to maintain continuity,” he said. “My foreign policy line was inserted into that of my predecessor, Giulio Andreotti, who is a different type of person from me, just as I am from Scotti. For (Scotti) it will be important to work together with the prime minister.”

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