Italy's Meloni asks Modi to push for peace in Ukraine

NEW DELHI, March 2 (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni asked for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's help on Thursday in facilitating "just peace" in Ukraine, as foreign ministers of some of the world's largest economies met in New Delhi.

Meloni's two-day visit to India, the first by an Italian prime minister in five years, coincides with a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in the Indian capital where Russia's year-long war in Ukraine have dominated discussions.

India has declined to blame Russia for the war, seeking a diplomatic solution and sharply boosting its purchases of discounted Russian oil.

"We both share the hope that India as G20 president can play a central role in facilitating negotiations towards a ceasefire and a just peace," Meloni told reporters at a joint briefing with Modi, praising him for "having the highest approval ratings in the world".

Modi, who earlier in the day called on G20 ministers to find a common ground to global issues, said India was ready to contribute to efforts to restore peace.

"From the start of the Ukraine conflict itself, India has made it clear that this dispute can only be solved through dialogue and diplomacy, and India is fully ready to contribute to any peaceful response," he said.

Modi also said that he discussed increasing cooperation in semiconductors, renewable energy and green hydrogen with Meloni.

India and Italy are celebrating 75 years of diplomatic relations this year and are looking to improve ties hurt by the 2012 shooting of two fishermen by Italian marines off the southern Indian coast. Relations had been cool for a long time.

India's Supreme Court said in June 2021 that it had closed all proceedings against two Italian marines over the shooting after Rome paid $1.36 million in compensation.

Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, who were arrested in February 2012 over the shooting, said the killings were accidental as they mistook the fishermen for pirates and fired warning shots while on duty on the Italian oil tanker "Enrica Lexie".

The Indian court had earlier barred the Italian ambassador from leaving the country over the shooting, leading to a diplomatic spat between the countries.

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Reporting by Sakshi Dayal and Francesca Piscioneri; Writing by Shivam Patel; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Shri Navaratnam and Kim Coghill

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