Meloni confirms strong ties with US in first White House visit

Meloni confirms strong ties with US in first White House visit

Italian premier meets US President Biden to discuss further cooperation and challenges posed by China

By Giada Zampano

ROME (AA) - Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni met US President Joe Biden at the White House late on Thursday, reaffirming the strong bilateral relationship and their will to strengthen cooperation to respond to the challenges posed by China.

Meloni’s visit to Washington DC comes ahead of the upcoming Italian presidency of the G-7 nations in 2024, and is part of a foreign relations’ strategy that the far-right leader is pursuing in Europe and abroad to strengthen Italy’s international role.

Biden welcomed Meloni at the White House saying they had "become friends," even if at first the US president was “wary” of Italy's conservative leader, who is emerging as the far-right rising star in Europe.

After last year's election results, which confirmed Meloni’s wide popular support, Biden warned liberals against the dangers posed by the far-right for Western democracies.

The two leaders also differ strongly over LGBTQ+ rights, on which the Italian premier and her right-wing coalition have started controversial battles, including new rules that limit same-sex couples’ parental rights.

"Our relations are strong," Meloni said at the beginning of the Oval Office meeting. "They cross governments and remain solid regardless of their political colors. We know who our friends are in times that are tough."

From his side, Biden complimented Italy on what he defined a “strong stance” on the war in Ukraine, which Rome has pledged to support both militarily and financially, until needed.

In a joint statement, the two leaders also emphasized their will to strengthen dialogue on the "opportunities and challenges posed by the People's Republic of China."

Meloni has to make a decision in the coming months over whether to maintain Italy's membership in Beijing's Belt and Road (BRI) infrastructure plan, a program which Washington has been fiercely opposing.

Italy in 2019 became the first and only G-7 nation to join China's initiative, which critics say would give Beijing control of key technologies and infrastructures.

Meloni said in May it was possible to maintain good relations with Beijing without being part of the plan, suggesting it may exit the agreement.

On Thursday Meloni also announced she plans to visit China in one of her next diplomatic trips, when she could meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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