13:56 GMT17 February 2020
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    The Italian business community wants to retain its presence in the Russian market.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Italian business community wants to retain its presence in the Russian market, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.

    "Italy is one of Russia’s major trading partners. However, the EU’s spiraling sanctions against Russia have led to a significant decline in bilateral trade," Lavrov said in an interview with the Russian Business Guide magazine.

    The trade between Russia and Italy dropped by 35 percent in terms of volume in the first nine months of 2015, with imports from Italy down by 38 percent, Lavrov said, citing official Russian statistics.

    "The current situation is a matter of grave concern for the Italian business community, since Italian businesses do not want to leave the Russian market and want cooperation to continue across the board," the foreign minister said.

    According to Lavrov, this attitude can be seen in the fact that Russian-Italian business forums were held in a number of Italian cities, including Milan, Florence and Rome, in 2015. Also, an Italian delegation of senior executives from major Italian corporations was proactive at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum while trade and investment were the focal point of the Fourth Eurasian Forum held in Verona on October 22-23, that was attended by Russian and Italian business majors, according to Lavrov.

    Sergei Lavrov thinks that Moscow and Rome should revive the existing mechanisms for bilateral cooperation.

    "We deem it necessary to revive all existing  bilateral mechanisms, including top-level expanded-format Russian-Italian interstate consultations, the latest round of which was held in 2013," Lavrov said in an interview to the Russian Business Guide magazine.

    He added that the Russian side strongly believed that the progressive advancement of equal and mutually beneficial relations between Russia and Italy was in line with the fundamental interests of the two countries and was an important factor in global and regional security and stability.

    "We are confident that by combining our efforts we will be able to overcome the current decline and put bilateral relations back on track," Lavrov said.

    The foreign minister added that by moving in the direction of thawing of relations, Italy and Russia could deliver on the objective of creating an area of economic and humanitarian cooperation from the Atlantic to the Pacific based upon the equal and indivisible security architecture.

    Relations between Russia and the European Union deteriorated due to the crisis in Ukraine. The bloc imposed sanctions on Russia, accusing Moscow of meddling in the Ukrainian conflict.

    Moscow has repeatedly denied the accusations and responded to the sanctions with an embargo on food imports from the countries that sanctioned it.

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    European Union, Sergei Lavrov, Italy, Russia
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