March 4, 2015 / 2:18 PM / 3 years ago

Italy PM Renzi says Ukraine sovereignty must be respected

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi during a meeting with the media in Kiev, March 4, 2015. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS)

KIEV (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi backed European efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine on Wednesday, saying Rome was fully committed to preserving the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We are at a moment where we all want the independence and the sovereignty of Ukraine to be respected,” he said on a visit to Kiev, where he met Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.

“We have a complete commitment and interest in seeing peace return to this part of our Europe,” he said.

Renzi, who is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, said he was convinced Ukraine would continue with economic and institutional reforms and said Italian companies were ready to take part in privatizations.

Italy, traditionally friendly with Moscow and heavily reliant on supplies of Russian natural gas, has faced scepticism from some in Europe about its commitment to Western efforts to apply pressure on Putin over the crisis in Ukraine.

But Renzi, who took part in a video conference with U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of Germany, France and Britain on the Ukraine crisis on Tuesday, said Italy was fully behind the Feb. 12 ceasefire accord reached in Minsk.

He said the whole of Europe had an interest in seeing a permanent end to fighting in Ukraine, where government troops have been fighting Russian-backed separatist forces in the east of the country.

“We will continue to work together to implement the Minsk accord and doing all we can to return to peace with the respect of the integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” he said.

Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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