By Gavin Jones and Angelo Amante
ROME (Reuters) -Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called on Thursday for an urgent ceasefire in Ukraine to enable a negotiated end to the war and said Italy would continue supporting Kyiv, without ruling out the supply of weapons.
Draghi, who has taken a hard line against Russia since its Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbour, said it was important to maintain pressure through economic sanctions “because we have to bring Moscow to the negotiating table.”
“A ceasefire must be achieved as soon as possible,” Draghi told the upper house Senate, opening a debate on Italy’s role in backing Ukraine which is creating growing tensions in his ruling majority.
Draghi made no direct mention of whether Italy would continue to supply arms to Kyiv, something opposed by the 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League, key stakeholders in his multi-party coalition.
There is little public support in Italy for supplying military assistance for Ukraine, opinion polls show.
However, Draghi indicated he was not ready to rule out further weapons shipments.
“Italy will continue to support the Ukraine government in its efforts to repel the Russian invasion. We will do so in close coordination with our European partners,” he said.
Rome has so far adopted three decrees authorising arms supplies, without revealing the types of weapons provided.
“When someone, even in this House, repeats the call to send in more weapons … I won’t stand for it,” said League leader Matteo Salvini, addressing the Senate after Draghi.
The 5-Star’s lower house leader Davide Crippa said arms shipments were “not effective in building peace” and called on Draghi to show “more courage” by holding a vote on the issue.
Neither party said what they would do if Draghi sent more weapons to Kyiv.
The prime minister said Italy would do all it could to promote a negotiated settlement to the war, but any deal must have the full backing of Ukraine in order to be sustainable.
Moscow says it is engaged in a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” its neighbour. The West and Kyiv call that a false pretext for invasion.
(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)