Medvedev in Italy for talks with Berlusconi, ski break

23rd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Italy on Friday for talks with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that may be followed by a weekend ski break at an Alpine resort.

The talks in the northern business hub of Milan would focus primarily on trade and economic cooperation and be the leaders' third meeting in the last eight months, the Kremlin said.

Italy's ANSA news agency said the Kremlin chief planned to spend the weekend at the Cervinia ski resort near the border with Switzerland before returning to Moscow on Sunday.

A Kremlin spokesman told AFP there was a "50-50" chance for a stop in Cervinia, adding: "Everything will depend on the weather."

The forecast is for stormy weather in Cervinia on Friday, followed by weekend sunshine.

Medvedev and Berlusconi were set to meet for about an hour, followed by a joint news conference in the early afternoon and a stroll in Milan's main cathedral square.

Italy is one of Russia's key allies in western Europe, and the two countries cooperate on the South Stream gas pipeline, which will carry Russian gas to the region via the Black Sea once it is completed, scheduled in 2015.

Earlier this month Medvedev told Russian diplomats that Moscow needed to step up economic ties with Italy, among other countries, in order to modernise its economy.

Medvedev's predecessor at the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, counts Berlusconi among his personal friends, with the two men visiting each other at their holiday residences in recent years.

Russia and Italy plan a series of joint cultural events next year, a gesture Moscow usually reserves for its close friends and allies.

As part of the programme, La Scala's ballet troupe will perform at Russia's renovated Bolshoi Theater in December 2011, the Kremlin said.

© 2010 AFP

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