ROME (Sputnik) – Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expressed his support on Monday for the idea of the G7 (Group of Seven) readmitting Russia, which would allow the group to deal more effectively with a number of urgent international issues.
“In my opinion, we should move toward the reinstatement of the G8 format so that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is also present at the negotiating table. Thus, within the framework of G8, we will be able to discuss and resolve a series of problems that are currently being solved with great difficulty because not all of us are present at the [negotiating] table,” Conte told reporters at a press conference ahead of his visit to Moscow.
On Wednesday, the head of the Italian government will hold talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and will also meet with Italian businesspeople.
The prime minister said that the upcoming visit would become an important step for the Italian government. Conte also noted that he had never met the Russian president personally.
“From the very moment our government was formed, I have been saying that Russia plays a very important role in all international crises. And it is obvious that by adopting the foreign policy and paying attention not only to ‘your own backyard’ but to the international scenarios as well, we need to seek dialogue with Russia,” the Italian prime minister said.
The G8 political forum was established in 1997 when the group consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States was joined by Russia. However, Moscow was temporarily suspended from the group in 2014 following what Western nations call the “annexation of Crimea,” and the remaining seven states came to be known as G7 instead. In 2017, Moscow said that it was not considering in any way its return to the group.
Anti-Russia Sanctions Should Not Harm Small, Medium Businesses
The Italian Prime Minister went on saying that Western sanctions against Moscow should not harm Russian civil society and small and medium businesses.
“We do not want sanctions to inflict irreparable damage to Russian civil society or to harm small and medium businesses, which should not suffer from them,” Conte said at a press conference.
The prime minister reiterated the position of the Italian authorities, who repeatedly said that sanctions were not the ultimate goal, but an instrument.
“We are aware that they are related to the Minsk agreements, and their withdrawal is related to the implementation of these agreements. This is the reason why I agreed to renew them when I took office,” Conte said.
Conte noted that his meeting with Putin will be an opportunity to restart partnership from trade and economic perspective.
“Russia and Italy are bound by a great tradition of economic and trade relations. On the day after tomorrow, commercial agreements between important Russian and Italian companies will be signed,” the Italian prime minister concluded.
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Relations between Moscow and the West deteriorated in 2014 after Crimea’s reunification with Russia and amid the crisis in eastern Ukraine. The European Union and the United States imposed restrictive measures against Russian individuals, companies and economic sectors. Moscow has responded by imposing restrictions on food imports from the countries that supported the sanctions.
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Conte said in June that Italy would promote the revision of anti-Russia sanctions, saying that Moscow had played a major role in resolving geopolitical crises in recent years. The new Italian government, which was formed in late May by a coalition comprising the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the Eurosceptic Lega party, stated the need to lift the EU sanctions imposed on Russia in their government coalition agreement.