President Xi invites Italy’s far-right PM Meloni to China

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Italy’s newly elected far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Wednesday and accepted his invitation to visit China, her government said.

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The meeting on the Indonesian resort island of Bali was the first between the Chinese leader and the only woman to have ruled Italy, on what was Xi’s second foreign visit since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meloni stressed Rome’s desire to promote “mutual economic interests” and to increase Italian exports to China, said an Italian government statement released late Wednesday.

Relations between the European Union and China were also discussed, “with the hope that they will be revived,” it said.

Meloni also “insisted on the importance of relaunching all communication channels, including on human rights.”

Xi invited her to visit China at the end of the meeting and she accepted, the statement said. The talks lasted about an hour, according to Italian media.

China’s official Xinhua state media said Xi confirmed Beijing’s interest in developing economic cooperation with Rome and invited Italy to be the guest of honor at a large consumer goods fair in Hainan province next year.

Xi also said he hoped Italy would play an important role in encouraging the EU to pursue an “independent and positive” policy towards China, Xinhua said.

Both leaders hailed their countries as “ancient civilizations” that share common interests, it reported.

Xi held a series of bilateral meetings with a train of foreign dignitaries in Bali after almost three years of isolation, paved by a warmer-than-expected meeting on Monday with his US counterpart Joe Biden.

He also met Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, after years of frosty ties between Canberra and Beijing, as well as his French, South Korean, South African and Indonesian counterparts.

However, a meeting with new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was cancelled “over scheduling issues,” according to Downing Street.

It was to be the first such meeting between the leaders of the two countries in almost five years.

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