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Zelenskyy to meet Italian president in Rome Saturday

By AFP

Published : May 12, 2023 - 20:23

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference with President of the European Commission in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (AFP) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference with President of the European Commission in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (AFP)

ROME -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected in Rome on Saturday for talks with his Italian counterpart, an official told AFP Friday, with a meeting with Pope Francis also possible.

"We confirm that this meeting will take place tomorrow," a spokesperson for Italian President Sergio Mattarella said when asked about reports of a meeting with Zelenskyy.

It would be the first visit by Zelenskyy to EU and NATO member Italy since Russia's invasion in February 2022.

A Vatican source told AFP earlier that a meeting between Zelenskyy and Pope Francis was also "possible," although this has not yet been confirmed.

Zelenskyy is also expected to meet with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who visited Kyiv in February to show her country's support for Ukraine, although her office has not confirmed this.

Despite a history of warm ties with Moscow, Italy has sent weapons and money to help Kyiv and backed Western sanctions against Russia.

Meloni hosted Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Rome last month, on the occasion of a conference on how Italian businesses could help rebuild the war-torn country.

Pope Francis, who last hosted Zelenskyy at the Vatican in February 2020, has repeatedly called for peace in Ukraine and prays for the victims of the war almost every week during his general audience.

During an audience at the Vatican during his visit to Rome, Shmyhal invited the 86-year-old pontiff to Ukraine and asked for his help in returning children forcibly taken to Russia.

During a press conference returning home from Hungary a few days later, the pope confirmed he wanted to help.

"The Holy See is disposed to do it because it's right, it's the right thing and we should help," the pope said.

Shmyhal also said they had discussed Zelenskyy's plan for peace and "the different steps the Vatican could take" to help Kyiv achieve its goals.

In his press conference, Francis said he was willing to do everything necessary for peace in Ukraine, adding: "A mission is under way, but it isn't yet public."

However, both Kyiv and Moscow have said they know nothing about such a mission. (AFP)

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