(Adds more from statement, incorporates UniCredit stand)
ROME May 12 The Italian government, banks and Alitalia shareholders agreed on Monday that talks should continue with Gulf-based airline Etihad over a potential link-up, a government statement said.
The statement, issued after a two-hour meeting and conference call, said a deal with Etihad would be a significant opportunity for Alitalia and for Italy. Participants discussed the state of the negotiations and Etihad's requests.
The government said it urged Alitalia management to continue the talks, adding that more meetings would take place between the two airlines in the next few days.
Earlier, Federico Ghizzoni, the CEO of Italy's top lender UniCredit, said the bank was prepared to do what it could to help Alitalia but there were limits. UniCredit is one of the airline's creditor banks, along with Intesa Sanpaolo and Banca Popolare di Sondrio.
Alitalia and its creditors are looking to finalise a proposal aimed at persuading Etihad to invest in the loss-making Italian carrier. But talks have stalled on the restructuring of Alitalia's debt and staff level issues.
The government was represented by cabinet undersecretary Graziano Delrio, Fabrizio Pagani, a senior member of the Economy Ministry and Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi.
Alitalia was represented by CEO Gabriele Del Torchio and chairman Roberto Colaninno. Several representatives of the banks also participated. (Reporting By Francesca Piscioneri, writing by Philip Pullella; editing by David Evans)