China's President Xi Jinping (left), China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Italy’s Labor and Industry Minister and deputy PM Luigi Di Maio and Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte attend a signing ceremony at Villa Madama in Rome as part of Xi Jinping's two-day visit to Italy on Saturday. Alberto Pizzoli/ AFP
ROME: Italy on Saturday became the first member of the Group of Seven industrialised powers to endorse China's "Belt and Road" infrastructure project, with Rome brushing off the worries of Western allies as it looks to revive its flagging economy.
The signing ceremony was the highlight of a three-day trip to Italy by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was designed to boost ties between the two nations at a time when the United States is locked in a trade war with China.
Chinese and Italian firms additionally signed some 10 deals, including in the energy, steel and gas pipeline sectors.
Full details of the contracts was not immediately revealed, but a government source said they could potentially be worth up to 20 billion euros ($22.62 billion). Italian media put the value at around 5 billion euros.
The city is now also seeking to amend laws to allow individuals to be extradited to mainland China, despite grave human rights concerns towards Beijing.
The leaders of China, France, Germany and the EU were set to meet in Paris on Tuesday for “unprecedented” talks on how to improve ties, despite growing jitters over Beijing’s massive investments in Europe.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron were due to hold talks in Paris on Monday with the host leader seeking to forge a united European front to contend with Beijing’s advances.
The US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will meet with Chinese, Russian and European Union diplomats on Afghanistan on Thursday as he tries to forge a peace deal with the Taliban to bring an end to America’s longest war.
Thailand reported 965 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday after registering record daily rises in the past two days as the country deals with a third wave of infections and a highly contagious variant.
Activists urged people this year to stage symbolic protests from the start of the holiday on Tuesday, including by painting a three-finger salute used by demonstrators on traditional Thingyan pots filled with flowers, which are typically displayed at this time.
Japan has argued the water release is necessary to press ahead with the complex decommissioning of the plant after it was crippled by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, pointing out that similarly filtered water is routinely released from nuclear plants around the world.