Italian Prime Minister annoyed by Zelenski’s ‘inappropriate’ meeting War news of Russia and Ukraine

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni says the Franco-German meeting with the Ukrainian leader in Paris helped ‘unity’.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni criticized France and Germany after she was not invited to a dinner in Paris with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, further increasing friction between the European Union allies.

Zelenskyy began a surprise visit to Western Europe on Wednesday with a visit to the United Kingdom and then to France, where he had a late dinner with Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ahead of Thursday’s EU summit.

But unlike last year, when then-Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi worked hand-in-hand with Macron and Scholz over Ukraine, Meloni stayed on the sidelines.

Speaking to reporters after arriving at a summit in Brussels on Thursday, Meloni, who took office in October last year, said she thought the reprimand was “inappropriate”.

“I think our strength in this fight is unity,” she added.

She later met with Zelenski on the sidelines of the EU meeting.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, speaks with Italian Prime Minister Giorgio Meloni during a bilateral meeting at the EU summit in Brussels
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, speaks with Italian Prime Minister Giorgio Meloni during a bilateral meeting at the EU summit in Brussels [Johanna Geron/Pool via AP Photo]

Asked about her comments, Macron said he thought Wednesday’s dinner was appropriate.

“As you know, Germany and France have had a special role in the Ukrainian issue for eight years,” he told reporters, referring to the two countries’ joint mediation that tried, but failed, to prevent a conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

But things were different when Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank, was prime minister. Draghi traveled by train to Kiev with Macron and Scholz last June and played a leading role with them in shaping the EU’s opposition to Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

Meloni vowed to maintain the same pro-Ukraine stance, despite fears from some of her coalition allies, telling reporters on Thursday that helping Kiev was the best way to bring peace.

Underlining their readiness to support Kiev, Italy and France last week concluded technical talks for the joint delivery of the SAMP/T-MAMBA air defense system to Ukraine early this year.

However, Melona’s brand of nationalist politics has put her at odds with Macron and Scholz on a range of other issues, and the close ties Draghi forged with Paris and Berlin seem a distant memory.

Last November, Paris accused Meloni’s new government of breaching trust and violating international law by refusing to take in refugees and migrants rescued by a charity rescue ship. The ship eventually docked in France.

Earlier this week, French and German ministers flew together to Washington to discuss with their American counterparts the controversial US subsidies, excluding Italy, which is the second largest producer in the European Union after Germany.

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