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POLITICS

Obama has called Renzi to thank him for ‘close partnership’

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday phoned Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who formally resigned after a crushing referendum defeat.

Obama has called Renzi to thank him for 'close partnership'
Obama with Renzi at his final state dinner earlier this year. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP

“The president emphasized that Italy will remain one of the United States' closest and strongest allies and an indispensable partner,” the White House said in a statement.

Obama made the call from Air Force One on a flight from Washington to Tampa, Florida, thanking Renzi “for the close friendship and partnership the leaders enjoyed” during his tenure as prime minister.

The outgoing Democratic president, who will be succeeded by Republican Donald Trump next month, had praised the center-left Renzi's proposed reforms to streamline parliament and the electoral system.

Obama hosted Renzi at his final state dinner at the White House on October 18th.

After Renzi, 41, suffered a crushing defeat in a referendum Sunday on constitutional reform, he presented his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Monday.

But Mattarella asked Renzi to postpone his resignation until parliament approves the 2017 budget, in the interest of easing political uncertainty in the country and across Europe.

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POLITICS

Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

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