As far as the EU 2014-2020 budget, France and Italy are committed to making sure ''the endowment of resources in both quantitative and qualitative terms lives up to the importance of the Mediterranean within the Union,'' said Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi. ''Italy and France agree on the need to re-implement neighborhood policies with third countries, beginning with the southern shore of the Mediterranean. A lot of expectations have been placed on these countries' capacity to consolidate their young democracies and to cooperate with the EU in fighting terrorism and illegal immigration more efficiently.'' The EU, said Terzi, must actively support those countries in fulfilling those expectations. ''As part of our joint effort, we reached an agreement within the framework of the Mediterranean Reflection Group, which allowed us to identify strategic initiatives that can be entrusted with the ambitious task of pursuing Euro-Mediterranean global partnership,'' Terzi explained, pointing to the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which France supported, as a successful example of multilateral partnership.
Focusing on the Syrian civil war, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the ambassadors that ''the end of the regime is in sight, and the opposition must prepare to rule.'' The umbrella National Opposition Front recently constituted in Qatar is the ''legitimate representative'' of the Syrian people, and must be supported as ''the sole bastion against chaos and extremism,'' Fabius said, adding that policies to isolate and sanction Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling clan must continue, as must ''the humanitarian mobilization'' in aid of civilians and refugees.
Fabius also pointed to a bilateral harmony of views on the UN vote on Palestine. ''It is not an end in itself, but a step on the road to two states co-existing in peace and security,'' the French minister said. ''Negotiations must resume, without preconditions and as soon as possible.'' France and Italy also agree on the issue of Iran's nuclear program, which is of ''great concern,'' Fabius said. ''Tehran has the right to a civilian nuclear program, but possession of nuclear weapons, which risks destabilizing the entire region, is unacceptable.'' The French minister went on to discuss yesterday's UN Security Council resolution authorizing international military intervention alongside national troops in northern Mali, which has been taken over by terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). ''Narcoterrorism is an extremely serious threat, which comes very close to home,'' touching Europe as well as Mali's African neighbors, Fabius warned, adding that one way to defuse that situation is by ''favoring north-south negotiations, under the leadership of the African Union and the EU.'' (ANSAmed).