The United Arab Emirates is evicting Italian planes and personnel from a major military installation in retribution for an arms embargo imposed on the UAE by Rome in January this year, Defense News reported on Friday, citing an Italian MP.
Italy has reportedly been given until July 2 to leave the Arab country's Al Minhad airbase, according to Matteo Perego Di Cremnago, an Italian member of parliament and member of the parliamentary military commission.
"The pull-out has already started and while work is underway by Italy to secure a last-minute cancellation of the eviction, I doubt it will succeed," di Cremnago is quoted in the report as saying.
If verified, the eviction might make Italy's current withdrawal from Afghanistan much more difficult.
"When relationships break down in the Gulf it is very hard to resurrect them," the politician noted philosophically.
The last Italian aircraft left the base on Thursday, leaving just residual items to gather, the outlet reported, citing former Italian air force head General Leonardo Tricarico. The eviction, according to Tricarico, is part of the UAE's severe treatment of Italy, as the Gulf nation "has also denied the use of its airspace to Italian military aircraft."
The military base has also been utilized by Italy to support multinational operations in the Horn of Africa peninsula and the Indian Ocean.
The eviction could reportedly be related to Italy's decision in January to impose a ban on the sale of munitions and missiles to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, citing concerns about the Gulf states' military intervention in Yemen.
A coalition cabinet led by former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and backed by the center-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Party enacted the Italian embargo.
The two countries are members of a coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, where a civil war triggered a huge humanitarian disaster. sparking concerns from the United Nations.
Luigi Di Maio, the Conte government's foreign minister at the time, has reportedly claimed credit for the embargo, calling it a "clear message of peace sent by our country" and emphasizing that "the respect for human rights is a mandatory commitment for us."
Conte's cabinet was replaced in February by a national unity government led by Mario Draghi, the former European Central Bank governor, who let Di Maio continue as foreign minister.
"This is the moment the Five Star party in Italy needs to take responsibility for a huge geo-strategic mistake – this eviction is emblematic of a broken relationship with an ally. Italy had invested a lot in the base and hoped to expand its presence there," di Cremnago stated.
The Biden administration said in January that it would evaluate a large $23.37 billion arms sale to the UAE, which had been announced by the Trump administration and included 50 F-35 fighter jets, drones, and ammunition. In April, Washington announced that it would proceed with the agreement.