It has been nearly 7 years since most of the European countries closed its embassies and cut off diplomatic ties with Damascus as the uprising turned uncontrollable in late 2011.
Throughout the bloody years of the Syrian conflict, Italy has taken early steps to revive the years-long ‘frozen’ Syrian-European relations, which had witnessed intermittent and unstable communications mainly focusing on security issues.
Two years ago, Italy dispatched Alberto Manenti, Director of the Information and External Security Agency, to Damascus following a visit paid by the director of Syrian General Intelligence Department, Major General Mohammed Dieb Zeitoun. Fighting terrorism was the main topic of the talks.
Italy reported the communication to its European partners, who insisted such communication is made with a Syrian official who is not enlisted on its terror list, and in Beirut by the mediation of the Director of Lebanese General Security; Abbas Ibrahim.
Driven by the recent field development in Syria, the Syrian-European relations were reactivated to handle two topics: counter-terrorism and the Syrian refugees in Europe. The Syrians demanded to include the economic sanctions and stifling blockade in the agenda, and that such communication be purely political.
Italy proposed Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as the contact point. The Syrian refused, nominating major general Ali Mamluk, director of the National Security Bureau, for the task.
Weeks of impasse passed by until Director of Lebanese General Security, Abbas Ibrahim made the breakthrough by meeting the Italian intelligence chief in Beirut and eventually approving Mamluk as Syria’s ‘envoy’ to tackle the communications with the Europeans.
As a gesture of goodwill, Mamluk flew to Rome with an Italian private plane. The Italian officials confirmed that Damascus will witness ‘positive results’ regarding the economic blockade, promising to work with other European partners on this matter, especially Germany (since France and Britain adopt more radical attitude about cooperation with Damascus).
In this context, the Italian intelligence chief visited Damascus to resume talks of such topics of mutual interest.
This article relies on an article published in Arabic by the Lebanese daily newspaper Al Akhbar. AMN bears no responsibility about the authenticity of the content.