Italy's Meloni pledges arms for Ukraine, Berlusconi toes line

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks during a session of the upper house of parliament ahead of a confidence vote for the new government, in Rome, Italy, October 26, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
  • New PM Meloni says to raise limit on use of cash
  • Rules out minimum wage
  • Wins Senate confidence vote, now ready to govern

ROME, Oct 26 (Reuters) - The only way to facilitate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine is helping Kyiv to defend itself militarily, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told parliament on Wednesday.

"Peace can be achieved by supporting Ukraine ... it is the only chance we have for the two sides to negotiate," Meloni told the Senate ahead of a confidence vote on her newly appointed rightist government.

Meloni has repeatedly pledged support to Kyiv, while her coalition allies Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini have been much more ambivalent on the issue due to their historic ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meloni said that while the arms Italy supplies to Ukraine are not decisive for the outcome of the war, they are vital for Italy to maintain its international credibility.

Berlusconi, who sparked a political storm last week by reiterating his sympathy for Putin and accusing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of triggering the war, came into line with Meloni during the Senate confidence debate.

He said he had always worked to unite Moscow with the West, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine meant this was now impossible.

"In this situation we naturally stand with the West," he said. "We must work for peace and we will do it in full accord with our Western allies in respect of the will of the Ukrainian people".

Meloni's government, which was sworn in on Saturday, comfortably won the confidence motion by 115 votes to 79.

Having won a similar vote in the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday it is now fully operational and can set about tackling the welter of problems facing the euro zone's third largest economy, which the Treasury says is in recession.

In other remarks during her Senate speech, Meloni said she would raise a limit on the use of cash, and she ruled out introducing a minimum wage, saying it was not the right way to increase Italy's chronically stagnant salaries.

She also said the government would rewrite legislation imposing a windfall tax on energy companies that have benefited from surging oil and gas prices.

The previous government led by Mario Draghi expected to fund part of its measures to soften the impact of the energy crisis on firms and families through a 25% windfall tax on energy groups, but revenues have proved much lower than expected.

additional reporting by Alvise Armellini

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