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Renzi and Putin discuss Syria and energy deals

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Italy's premier Matteo Renzi (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev Ria Novosti/AFP
14:08 CET+01:00
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday discussed the situation in Syria and potential energy projects with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the Kremlin said on Friday, after Rome briefly held up extending EU sanctions on Moscow last month.

The two leaders "confirmed the importance of continuing joint work in the interests of realising mutually profitable energy projects" and discussed the "chances for resolving the conflict in Syria" after Renzi called Putin, the Kremlin said in a statement.

"The importance of close coordination of efforts in the fight against international terrorism was underlined," the statement said.

Sources close to Renzi confirmed the phone conversation and said the two leaders wished each other Happy New Year and discussed an overview of the international situation, Italian news agencies reported.

Italy in December appeared to drag its heels on backing a renewal of European Union sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, briefly delaying a decision to extend the punitive measures to July before it was officially approved by the 28-nation bloc.

Europe's economic sanctions on Russia and a retaliatory food embargo from the Kremlin have hit several key Italian industries.

Rome has also been angered by a German pipeline project with Russia at a time when Berlin has been pushing the rest of Europe to maintain sanctions against Moscow.

Formally known as Nordstream 2, the pipeline under the Baltic Sea has upset diplomats who accuse Germany of selfishly seeking a reliable energy supply route with Putin while a similar project to southern Europe was dropped under EU pressure.

Some European leaders have also looked to bring Russia in from the cold in a bid to persuade the Kremlin to help resolve the conflict in Syria that has sent streams of refugees heading to the continent.

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Moscow has been carrying out a bombing campaign in the war-torn country since September at the request of its long-standing ally President Bashar al-Assad.

The West accuses Moscow of bombing groups battling Assad to prop up his regime but Russia insists it is striking "terrorists" that pose a threat to its own security.

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