World Bulletin / News Desk
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi welcomed visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday but offered no sign of breaking ranks with international partners over European Union sanctions against Moscow.
Two weeks before the EU is due to decide whether to extend economic sanctions over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Renzi praised the "traditional Italian Russian friendship" but spoke of "divergent positions" on some issues.
"We are in a difficult international situation, not just on account of issues which do not unite us but also for issues which should see us ever more on the same side in a very complicated international scenario, starting with the global threat of terrorism," he said at a ceremony at the Milan Expo.
Renzi, who meets Putin for talks on Wednesday, made no explicit reference to the Ukraine crisis. But referred to the need to face "challenges, both those that see us holding divergent positions as well as those that unite us".
However in a more conciliatory vein, he said he was looking forward to attending the 2018 soccer World Cup in Russia with the Italian team, implicitly ruling out Italy's involvement in any move to boycott the event over the corruption scandals which have shaken the global football body FIFA.
"My Italian partners have always put the interests of Italy, of the Italian people, first and believed that in order to serve the interests of their country, including economic and political interests, they must maintain friendly relations with Russia," Putin told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Putin referred to a "special relationship" with Rome.
He will also hope for a sympathetic reception in Vatican City from Pope Francis, who has played a behind-the-scenes role in discussions on a Palestinian state and in U.S.-Cuba relations.
The United States urged the Vatican on Wednesday to criticise Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict more forcefully.
"Maybe this is an opportunity where the Holy Father can privately raise concerns," said Ken Hackett, the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.Last Mod: 10 Haziran 2015, 14:15