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UKRAINE

‘A waste of time’: Talks with Putin go nowhere, says Italy’s PM

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Sunday that the diplomatic efforts by the West to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the war in Ukraine had so far achieved nothing.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi leaves after a speech on the Ukraine situation in Rome's Palazzo Chigi on February 24, 2022, after Russia's ground forces invaded Ukraine.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said that talks with Putin haven't been effective so far. Photo by Remo Casilli / POOL / AFP.

“I am beginning to think that those people are right when they say ‘It is useless to talk to him, it’s just a waste of time’,” Draghi told Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera.

Draghi said he had always felt French President Emmanuel Macron, who currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, “is right to try every possible avenue of dialogue.

“But I have the impression that the horror of the war with its carnage, with what they have done to children and women, is completely independent of the words and phone calls that are made,” the Italian leader said.

So far, Putin’s goal had not been the search for peace, “but the attempt to annihilate the Ukrainian resistance, occupy the country and entrust it to a friendly government,” Draghi continued.

Draghi spoke with Putin in recent days about achieving peace.

“I asked him: ‘When are you meeting (Ukraine president) Zelensky? Only you two can untie the knots’. He replied: ‘The time is not now’. I insisted: ‘Decide on a ceasefire’. Again, ‘No: the time is not now’.”

Like many others at the beginning of the conflict, Draghi had thought a quick victory for the Russians was likely.

READ ALSO: ‘Peace or air conditioning?’ Italy vows to follow EU on Russian gas embargo

“This did not happen: the victory did not come and we do not know if it will ever come. The Ukrainian resistance is heroic,” Draghi said.

Draghi’s comments follow the discovery of mass graves in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, recently occupied by the Russian army. Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP

“What awaits us is a war of resistance, prolonged violence with destruction that will continue. There is no sign that the Ukrainian people can accept the Russian occupation.”

Speaking of the atrocities in Bucha, where civilians were left dead in the street, Draghi was cautious to label what Russian troops committed there – as are other European leaders such as Spain’s prime minister who saw possible ‘genocide’ in Ukraine.

“What do we want to call the horror of Bucha if not war crimes? But I understand that terms like ‘genocide’ or ‘war crimes’ have a precise legal meaning,” he said.

“There will be a way and time to verify which words best suit the inhuman acts of the Russian army,” Draghi added.

Draghi’s comments came after Italy said it would reopen its Ukrainian embassy in Kyiv from Monday.

The Ukraine war has sparked a Western push for sanctions against Moscow, including moves to drastically cut purchases of Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Italy rejects Russian demand for gas payment in rubles

The Italian government has taken steps to reduce reliance on Russia, such as signing a gas deal with Algeria.

Draghi said that while economic sanctions against Russia were “essential to weaken the aggressor,”  they would not necessarily stop the war in the short term.

Nevertheless, the West could help Ukraine directly by supplying weapons.

“We need to help the Ukrainians directly, and that is what we are doing. Not doing so would be tantamount to telling them: surrender, accept slavery and submission – a message contrary to our European values of solidarity,” Draghi said.

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POLITICS

Italy’s Meloni in Libya to discuss energy and migration

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived on Saturday in the Libyan capital Tripoli for talks on energy as well as the thorny issue of migration, Libyan state media said.

Italy's Meloni in Libya to discuss energy and migration

Meloni’s trip – her second to a North African country this week – is the first by a European leader to war-battered Libya since her predecessor Mario Draghi’s visit in April 2021.

State television said the Italian premier was received by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, who heads the Tripoli-based, UN brokered Government of National Unity which is contested by a rival administration in the east.

Libya and its former colonial power Italy are key trade partners, particularly in energy, where Italian giant Eni plays a major role in tapping into Africa’s largest known oil reserves.

Meloni was accompanied by Eni chief Claudio Descalzi, who is expected to sign a deal with Libya’s National Oil Company to develop two Libyan offshore gas fields.

Eni will invest $8 million in the two fields, NOC chief Farhat Bengdara said in televised remarks this week, adding they are expected to produce 850 million cubic metres of gas.

Meloni visited Algeria on Monday seeking supply deals from Africa’s top gas exporter to help reduce reliance on Russia after it invaded Ukraine last year.

During her trip to Libya, she is also expected to discuss the issue of migration amid rising numbers of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy.

Libya has been wracked by years of conflict and division since a NATO-backed revolt toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The country is a conduit for thousands of people each year fleeing conflict and poverty across Africa, seeking refuge across the Mediterranean in Europe.

Meloni’s far-right government took office in October, vowing to stop migrant landings in Italy, which reached more than 105,000 in 2022.

The central Mediterranean route is considered the world’s most treacherous, according to the International Organization for Migration, which estimated that 1,377 migrants had disappeared on that route last year.

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