Rome, December 1 - The Med Dialogues 2016 conference opened Thursday in Rome and will run through Saturday, December 3, tackling some of the biggest crises in the Mediterranean. "Part of our future is dependent on what happens in the Mediterranean," Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni said in his opening remarks, "and this holds true not only for the countries on its shores: it's also true to all of Europe, Africa and other parts of the world." The Islamic State (ISIS) could be defeated in 2017, the minister noted. "I think that 2017 could be the year of the final defeat of ISIS in Sirte, Mosul and Raqqa. However, post-defeat challenges will remain before us", he said, including reconstruction, security and awareness that the solution "will not be only military. It will be a challenge involving the military, economic and cultural spheres." Britain has decided to leave the EU but has not left Europe as proven by its work helping partners rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in his speech. He added that British warships were saving migrants and neutralising traffickers. "Our country may have decided to leave the European Union, but it has not left Europe, nor our commitment to working with our partners," he said. Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit meanwhile urged Western nations to "please stay out of our region". "There has been an insistence on intervening" in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, but "these interventions have only produced disasters", he said, referring to Western nations in general but especially the UK and the US. Before achieving a new regional order, Aboul-Gheit said, "a few fundamental issues need to be resolved: ensuring the inviolability of borders; understanding how to keep the idea of nation states in Libya, Syria and Iraq; and how to prevent intervention by neighboring countries." Gentiloni stressed that "Italy's largest and top foreign policy priority is, obviously, the Mediterranean", and Italy will "make use of the proposals and reflections that surface in these days". The minister noted that Italy will host the G7 in 2017 and will hold the seat of the non-permanent 2017-18 term of the UN Security Council, as well as hosting celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in the coming year. A key moment for the conference will be a meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday, especially given the increasingly critical situation in Syria in recent days. The conference, organised by the Italian Foreign Ministry and the Institute for International Public Studies (ISPI), will host representatives from 55 countries including heads of state, ministers, and leaders in the worlds of finance, international relations and civil society.
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