'We stand together': Italy and US discuss joint response to Ukraine crisis

AFP/The Local
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'We stand together': Italy and US discuss joint response to Ukraine crisis
US President Joe Biden meets with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 10, 2022. Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Tuesday visited the White House to urge US President Joe Biden to work on a long-term peace plan for Ukraine, and said Russia's actions had only strengthened their countries' unity.


"The ties between our two countries will always be strong and, if anything, this war in Ukraine has made them stronger," Draghi said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin "thought he could divide us. He failed," Draghi told Biden. "We stand together."

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

Biden, who hosted Draghi in the Oval Office, echoed the sentiment, saying in comments while reporters were present that "Putin believed he could split us, but we've all stepped up."


Draghi said at the meeting that allies should work on negotiations toward long-lasting peace in Ukraine, even as they continue to sanction Russia over its invasion of the country.

“People are asking, how can we end those atrocities? How can we reach a ceasefire? At the moment it is hard to have answers to that, but we need to think carefully about those questions,” Draghi said.

Despite Italy's dependence on Russian gas and Rome's traditionally friendly ties with Moscow, Draghi's government has been a staunch supporter of efforts to punish Russia for its assault on Ukraine.

Along with Western allies, Rome has sent weapons to support Kyiv, although there is increasing unease about the move within Draghi's broad coalition government.

READ ALSO: How is Italy responding to the Ukraine refugee crisis?

Draghi has also pledged support for any European Union sanctions on Russia's energy sector, despite the fact that 40 percent of Italy's natural gas imports are currently coming from Russia.

The EU is currently debating a phased ban on Russian oil imports, although this move would not touch Moscow's huge gas exports.

The US and the EU in March announced a plan to supply least 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas to the bloc this year to help it end reliance on Russia.

Draghi and Biden speak in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo by POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The meeting at the White House comes ahead of crucial G7 and NATO summits in Europe next month. Beyond Ukraine, the leaders are expected to discuss the global economy, Europe's energy security and climate change.

Biden, who has made a priority of repairing tattered US-EU ties after taking over from Donald Trump in the White House, told Draghi that "a strong European Union is in the interests of the United States."

"It's good for everyone," he said.

Draghi has particularly close ties with the United States.

He did his PhD at MIT and worked for both the World Bank and US investment bank Goldman Sachs. He was also president of the European Central Bank for eight years.


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