Franco Frattini: The U.S.-Russian summit can become a beginning of lifting sanctions

On the eve of the Russian-U.S. summit in Helsinki, Special Representative on the Transnistrian Settlement Process of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy Franco Frattini shared his expectations from the meeting of the presidents of Russia and the U.S.

The well-known politician, president of the Italian Society for of International Organizations expressed an opinion that the result of the negotiations could decrease hostility on the part of Europe towards Russia in an interview to correspondent of RIA Novosti in Rome Alexander Logunov.

– Mr. Frattini, what are you expectations from the upcoming meeting of the Russian and U.S. leaders?

– The answer to your questions can only be complex. The meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin, without any doubt, has a great importance, and most of the attention of mass media is focused on that, and I fear that it has been overloaded with expectations, which are destined to be failed. Or, I would rather say, with wrong expectations. I will explain. Honestly speaking, I hardly believe that based on the results of the summit we will witness a major turn in the policies, pursued by Moscow and Washington over several years, or sudden disappearance of tensions, which, unfortunately, characterize the Russian-European relations. A direct contact between Trump and Putin is a very important signal, but we will be able to evaluate its consequences only if it becomes a beginning of full restoration of the dialogue between the Russian Federation and the West, and only time will tell.

What do you think, what topics will be raised during the meeting?

– There are many topics, which present a common interest, and all of them are extremely important. Above all, the problem of the Middle East, and I am speaking not just about Syria, where government forces with decisive support of Russia are trying to restore control everywhere in the south of the country and, in this sense, end the widescale war, which has been lasting for already seven years. The position of Israel, which though being a strong ally of the United States, has also slowly strengthened its positions with Moscow, is not a less delicate issue. Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu has recently been to the Kremlin, (leader of Palestine) Mahmoud Abbas is in Russian now. The U.S. has close relations with the Saudi Arabia, and Russia with Iran, the two key players required to keep the balance in the region, and that is why an agreement between Moscow and Washington could unblock the Palestinian-Israeli negotiation process, which has come to a worrisome deadlock.

The second problem will, probable, involve two nuclear profiles – the Iranian and the North Korean. Their peaceful resolution, independently from the “declaration on their resolution”, is a priority both for Russia and the U.S.

The third point is bound to involve Europe. Much could be said about that: from the sanctions to insufficient economic, cultural and political cooperation with Russia, but this will require another interview. Finally, it is quite probable, that President Trump, considering his enormous personal experience, would like to discuss issues of the economy at the negotiations table.

How could this meeting affect Europe and, especially, Italy? What consequences will it have for the U.S.-Russian relations?

– It is a common knowledge that signals are a very important factor in politics, including international politics. While Europe is divided into those, who would like to overcome tensions in relations with Moscow, and those, who call for stricter measures, possibly, believing that they are supported by the White House, a signal of openness from Washington can decrease certain hostility from Europe. I repeat, I do not think that the next day after the meeting, even if it will allow reaching a full agreement on perspectives between the two presidents, we will see complete lifting of the economic sanctions against Russia. However, it could become a beginning of that process. The case of Italy in this regard is not the best example. Rome has great relations with Moscow, I would say, ones of the best, but it is also a member and a founder of the European Union and NATO. New Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has clearly expressed the wish of Italy to restore full cooperation with Moscow and turn the sad page of the sanctions over. Successful rebuilding of the Russian-American relations, without any doubt, will make implementation of the goals, set by Italy, easier.