Italy, one of Russia's principal trading partners in Europe, wants to keep communication channels with Moscow open despite the Ukrainian crisis, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Friday.
"I think we are all aware that the relations between Europe and Russia have suffered a blow following the Ukrainian crisis," he said at a joint press conference in Rome with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"But we are also all aware" that today is a moment "not only to maintain dialogue but boost collaboration and cooperation in the common interest of fighting terrorism," he said.
Italy on Wednesday called on EU nations to delay talks on whether to uphold economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine -- due to expire at the end of January -- because the decision needed proper consideration.
Ambassadors from the 28 member states had been expected to sign off on a six-month extension on Wednesday without any debate.
Italy wants the bloc's leaders to make the call at a summit next week, though sources say at this point it may be delayed further.
"Italy is Russia's second biggest trading partner in the EU and despite the challenging economic environment and the consequences of sanctions, businesses and Italian investors continue to be present in the Russian market," Gentiloni said.
A study by the Intesa San Paolo bank in March found the sanctions -- and counter-sanctions imposed by Moscow -- had lead to drop in Italian exports worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.31 billion) in 2014 and even more than that in 2015.