June 18, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to promote “healthy and stable” relations with Italy even as the European nation plans to exit his signature Belt and Road Initiative.

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Xi said in a message to his counterpart Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday that he “highly regards” the bilateral ties between the nations and “stands ready” to advance the relationship, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Xi’s message also included condolences over the death of former President Giorgio Napolitano.

The comments come at a sensitive time for the two nations. Italy has informed China that it intends to exit the investment pact — launched by Xi a decade ago to boost economic ties and expand the influence of the world’s second-biggest economy — just weeks before a summit in Beijing to celebrate the BRI’s anniversary. Italy joined in 2019, the only Group of Seven country to do so.

Read More: Meloni Told China Italy Plans to Exit Investment Pact

Like much of Europe, Italy has been caught in the middle of escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing, and that’s been compounded by China’s support for Russia since it invaded Ukraine.

European countries are also struggling to balance a desire to engage with China on trade and investment while pushing back against claims of economic coercion and human rights concerns, as well as risks associated with becoming too dependent on supplies from China.

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