MOSCOW, 4 March. /TASS/. Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who took the office exactly a year ago, is beginning a short tour, which includes visits first to Kiev, and then to Moscow.
In Ukraine, Renzi will have a meeting with President Petro Poroshenko, and on March 5 he will come to Russia, where he will have meetings with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Italy’s presidential press service said the talks will focus on international issues - settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, the situations in the Middle East and in Libya, as well as fighting terrorism.
Renzi’s route repeats exactly the 2014 route Federica Mogherini - the then Prime Minister, and currently the EU foreign affairs chief. This was also the order of visits to the two capital cities of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Francois Hollande in early February before the meeting in Minsk, where the parties signed an agreement on ceasefire in Ukraine’s south-east.
In Italy, the authorities have been criticized for being on the side of the "European initiative" on settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. There are quite often reproaches that Renzi is not interested much in foreign policy, where on key issues the country has practically lost its say at the international level. Local analysts say during the second year in the office, Renzi will try to lift Italy’s rating in this matter, and one of the objectives for him is improvement of relations with Russia, which recently were at a high level due to his predecessors Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi.
Though having supported the EU sanctions against Russia, Italy belongs to a group of European countries sharing a rather flexible position on their possible lifting. The country’s foreign ministry said Rome had always insisted on keeping a dialogue with Moscow, which role remains essential in settlement of international crisis situations. Anyway, Rome will have to smooth over the fact that the sanctions were implemented in the six-month period of Italy’s chairing the EU.
Italian experts say, one of the issues on the agenda will be the situation in Libya. Italy is very nervous about what is happening in that country, which is only 300 kilometres from the Apennines. The concerns are not only about the resumed inflows of migrants, but also in the threats from the Islamic State, which has been expanding its influence in Libya, where the unrest features two governments and dozens militarised groups. Italy has been trying for quite a time to attract attention of the international community to the Libyan problem and hopes Russia will be its ally, especially on the eve of the discussions at the UN Security Council, where Russia’s vote may be critical.
Local business, who have suffered from the sanctions and would not want to lose access to the promising Russian market, are expecting from the prime minister a clear political signal about closer positions with Russia. Some political figures, including Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega Nord political party, and his allies insist on lifting the sanctions, which along with the economic slump in Russia have cost over five billion euro to the Italian economy.
This will be Renzi’s first visit to Moscow, the aide added. Matteo Renzi was sworn in as Italy’s prime minister on February 22, 2014. Last year, Putin and Renzi met twice - in Italy’s Milan (at Asia-Europe Summit in October) and Australia’s Brisbane (at G20 summit in November).
"All key issues of Russian-Italian cooperation, as well as pressing international problems, will be discussed at the meeting. The emphasis will be made on the crisis situation in Ukraine," Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov stressed. "Italy expects to have a comprehensive exchange of opinions on the Libyan problem, situation in the Middle East, Syrian conflict," he added.
"Renzi’s position on Ukraine has its peculiarities, but taking into account these nuances, we think the talks will be comprehensive and helpful," the aide said.
Renzi will also meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Talks with Putin will be held in a narrow format with participation of the two countries’ delegations. After the talks, Putin and Renzi will make a public statement for the press.
Renzi will visit Moscow at President Putin’s invitation. "At Putin’s talks with Renzi, a number of pressing international issues are on the agenda, including the state of affairs in Syria and Libya, spreading threat from terrorist activities of the Islamic State, as well as the situation in Ukraine and implementation of the Minsk agreements," Ushakov added.
Putin and Renzi will also discuss the development of bilateral ties, including trade and investment cooperation, interactions in the cultural and humanitarian spheres.