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Zelensky to meet Italian president in Rome on Saturday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected in Rome on Saturday for talks with his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella, with a meeting with Pope Francis also "possible".

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Rome on Saturday, May 13th. Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

“We confirm that this meeting will take place tomorrow,” a spokesman for Italian President Sergio Mattarella said when asked about reports of a meeting with Zelensky.

It would be the first visit by Zelensky to EU and NATO member Italy since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

A Vatican source told AFP earlier that a meeting between Zelensky and Pope Francis was also “possible”, although this has not yet been confirmed.

Zelensky is also expected to meet with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who visited Kyiv in February to show her country’s support for Ukraine, although her office has not confirmed this.

Despite a history of warm ties with Moscow, Italy has sent weapons and money to help Kyiv and backed Western sanctions against Russia.

READ ALSO: Italy seeks to freeze assets of Russian who fled after arrest in Milan

Meloni hosted Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Rome last month, on the occasion of a conference on how Italian businesses could help rebuild the war-torn country.

Pope Francis, who last hosted Zelensky at the Vatican in February 2020, has repeatedly called for peace in Ukraine and prays for the victims of the war almost every week during his general audience.

During an audience at the Vatican during his visit to Rome, Shmyhal invited the 86-year-old pontiff to Ukraine and asked for his help in returning children forcibly taken to Russia.

During a press conference returning home from Hungary a few days later, the pope confirmed he wanted to help.

“The Holy See is disposed to do it because it’s right, it’s the right thing and we should help,” the pope said.

Shmyhal also said they had discussed Zelensky’s plan for peace and “the different steps the Vatican could take” to help Kyiv achieve its goals.

READ ALSO: PM Meloni stresses Italy’s support for Ukraine on visit to Kyiv

In his press conference, Francis said he was willing to do everything necessary for peace in Ukraine, adding: “A mission is under way, but it isn’t yet public.”

However, both Kyiv and Moscow have said they know nothing about such a mission.

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EU

Italy’s Meloni hopes EU ‘understands message’ from voters

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Saturday she hoped the European Union would understand the "message" sent by voters in last weekend's elections, after far-right parties such as hers made gains.

Italy's Meloni hopes EU 'understands message' from voters

Meloni, head of the post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, which performed particularly well in the vote, urged the EU to “understand the message that has come from European citizens”.

“Because if we want to draw lessons from the vote that everything was fine, I fear it would be a slightly distorted reading,” she told a press conference at the end of a G7 summit in Puglia.

“European citizens are calling for pragmatism, they are calling for an approach that is much less ideological on several major issues,” she said.

Meloni’s right-wing government coalition has vehemently opposed the European Green Deal and wants a harder stance on migration.

“Citizens vote for a reason. It seems to me that a message has arrived, and it has arrived clearly,” she said.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Monday to negotiate the top jobs, including whether European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen will get a second term.

Von der Leyen’s centre-right European People’s Party strengthened its grip with the vote, but her reconfirmation is not yet in the bag.

The 65-year-old conservative was in Puglia for the G7 and likely used the summit to put her case to the leaders of France, Germany and Italy.

But Meloni refused to be drawn on whom she is backing.

“We will have a meeting on Monday, we’ll see,” she told journalists.

“We will also see what the evaluations will be on the other top roles,” she said.

Italian political watchers say Meloni is expected to back von der Leyen, but is unlikely to confirm that openly until Rome locks in a deal on commissioner jobs.

“What interests me is that… Italy is recognised for the role it deserves,” she said.

“I will then make my assessments.”

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani indicated that it was unlikely any decision would be made before the French elections on June 30 and July 7.

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