Updated at 18:07,08-09-2017

Lukashenka to visit Italy, Vatican this week

By Alyaksey Areshka, BelaPAN

Alyaksandr Lukashenka will visit Italy and the Vatican on May 20 and 21, reported the press office of the Belarusian leader.

Mr. Lukashenka is scheduled to meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella. Messrs. Lukashenka and Mattarella are expected to discuss the whole range of Belarusian-Italian relations with an emphasis on the development of trade, economic and investment cooperation, the press office said.

Particular attention will be paid to discussing the development of the legal basis for bilateral relations.

The development of cooperation between Belarus and the Roman Catholic Church is expected to be discussed at Mr. Lukashenkas meeting with Pope Francis.

During his visit to the Vatican in April 2009, Mr. Lukashenka had a 25-minute audience with Pope Benedict XVI. He also met with the then Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, in Rome.

Preparations for Mr. Lukashenkas visit have long been discussed. While meeting with Mr. Lukashenka in Minsk in the spring of 2015, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy Sees cardinal secretary of state, expressed the Holy Sees readiness to receive him. According to Msgr. Parolin, he discussed the possibility of such a visit during his meetings with representatives of Belarusian government agencies.

This visit and the pontiffs visit to Belarus are constantly on our agenda, Deputy Foreign Minister Alena Kupchyna told reporters on October 2, 2015. This visit will certainly happen, and will yield significant benefits for Belarus national interests. I know that the visit of our president is being looked forward to in the Vatican, just like people in Belarus are looking forward to the pontiffs visit, Ms. Kupchyna said.