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ROME: Italy’s prime minister will visit Turkey in July for discussions about the Ukraine war, the leader said Thursday, as tensions mount over Ankara’s threat to block Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids.

NATO member Turkey has said it would not support applications from the Nordic nations to join the Western military alliance, despite broad support from other members, including Italy.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the war in Ukraine would be discussed during his upcoming visit, in which he is expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“At the beginning of July, I will be in Ankara for the bilateral meeting with Turkey – the first of its kind in 10 years,” Draghi told the Senate.

“We will discuss the negotiation and diplomatic prospects of the (Ukraine) conflict and the strengthening of relations between Italy and Turkey.”

Italy’s Draghi calls for common EU response to energy costs

Turkey and Italy have had fraught relations in the past, with Draghi referring to Erdogan as a “dictator” a year ago.

Draghi’s comment followed a minor diplomatic row over seating arrangements during a meeting between Erdogan and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Erdogan’s threat to block Sweden and Finland from NATO comes after he accused them of harbouring “terrorists”, namely members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies.

Political experts say the issue can be resolved through concessions and pressure on Ankara.

Early in the Ukrainian conflict in March, Turkey hosted a meeting between Moscow and Kyiv negotiators in Istanbul, and another between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Antalya.

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