Rome and Beijing want to 'deepen' dialogue: Italian PM's office

AFP/The Local
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Rome and Beijing want to 'deepen' dialogue: Italian PM's office
Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (C,L) is greeted upon her arrival at the airport on the eve of two-day G20 summit in New Delhi on September 8, 2023. She met Chinese Premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of the summit on Saturday. Photo: PIB / AFP

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Chinese Premier Li Qiang, meeting for the first time Saturday, agreed to "consolidate and deepen" dialogue between Rome and Beijing, Meloni's office said.


The meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi came amid rising speculation that Italy is preparing to withdraw from or rethink a controversial investment deal with China.

The European Union is part of a broad alliance which unveiled ambitious plans at the G20 to create a modern-day Spice Route linking Europe, the Middle East and India, which signatories hope will offer a counterbalance to lavish Chinese infrastructure spending.

Debt-ridden Italy in 2019 became the only one of the group of leading developed democracies to sign up to China's trillion-dollar investment scheme.

The agreement automatically renews in March 2024 unless Italy opts out by the end of this year.

Critics say the Belt and Road plan is a Trojan horse to increase China's influence and Meloni is under pressure to exit, but hopes to do so without inflaming tensions.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who travelled to Beijing earlier this month, said the Belt and Road initiative "has not produced the results we were hoping for".

Meloni is tipped to travel to Beijing for a state visit in the next couple of months, and some analysts expect her to pull the plug on the deal then, while possibly boosting other existing Italy-China accords at the same time.


The meeting with Li Saturday "confirmed the common intention to consolidate and deepen the dialogue between Rome and Beijing on the main bilateral and international issues," Meloni's office said in a statement.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of a global strategic partnership between the two countries which "will constitute the beacon for the advancement of friendship and collaboration," it said.




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