Italy PM’s diplomatic adviser resigns over prank call fiasco

Italy PM’s diplomatic adviser resigns over prank call fiasco

ROME (Reuters): Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Friday that her chief diplomatic adviser had resigned, carrying the can for a prank call fiasco that led to the release of unfiltered remarks on Ukraine and migration.

“This matter was not handled well, we are all sorry, Ambassador (Francesco) Talo took responsibility for it,” Meloni said, announcing that her aide had quit.

Talo, a 65-year-old career diplomat who previously served as Italian ambassador to NATO and Israel and as envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was due to retire by the end of the year.

Meloni’s office confirmed on Wednesday that she had a phone conversation with a Russian comedian who successfully posed as a high-ranking African Union official.

During the English-language call which took place in September but was released online only this week, Meloni spoke of international “fatigue” with the war in Ukraine and complained that Italy had little support from European partners in dealing with migration.

On Friday, she said she had “a doubt” about her interlocutor but “no certainty” that he was an impostor, and blamed her diplomatic staff for not properly screening the caller.

Meloni said her “fatigue” comments on Ukraine were “nothing new” and did not contradict her government’s steadfast support for Kyiv and its belief that it will win in its conflict with Russia.

“We have taken a very clear (pro-Ukraine) position and perhaps this is also why (Russians) call us,” she told a press conference, adding however she had “no evidence” that the prank was part of Kremlin-sponsored propaganda.

Before Meloni announced Talo’s resignation, the opposition Democratic Party had called on the government to inform parliament about the incident, saying it raised serious national security questions.

The prank call was the work of a duo known as Vovan and Lexus who have managed to dupe other Western politicians and celebrities, including former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Britain’s Prince Harry.