Former Italian premier Renzi hails Saudi Arabia as future centre of 'New Renaissance'

After triggering a political crisis in Italy, Renzi flew to Saudi Arabia to attend a forum with the "great" Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, who plunged Italy's government into political chaos last week, flew to Saudi Arabia in recent days to speak at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum.

Footage has been published online showing Renzi praising the "great" Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, during the fourth addition of the FII think tank.

Stating that it was a "great honour" to be at the conference in Riyadh, Renzi underlined his credentials as not just a former Italian premier but a former mayor of Florence.

He described Florence as "the city of Renaissance, and Renaissance became great exactly after the plague, after pandemic," adding that "Saudi could be a place for a new Renaissance for the future."

Renzi's comments, and his presence in Saudi Arabia just days after he triggered a political crisis in Italy, has been rounded on by the Italian press and the public on social media, who have raised the issue of Saudi's record on human rights, women's rights, and freedom of press. His comparison of Florence with Saudi Arabia has also raised eyebrows.

Renzi triggered political chaos last week after his centrist Italia Viva (IV)  party pulled its support from the government, leading to the resignation of premier Giuseppe Conte and the current crisis talks being steered by the Italian president Sergio Mattarella.

The news of Renzi travelling to Saudi Arabia was first reported by Italian newspaper Domani which said that the former premier attended the conference for free however as a board member he receives an annual salary that can reach around $80,000 depending on the number of meetings and events he attends.

Renzi concluded his 20-minute talk in Riyadh by telling the Crown Prince that he "believes that with your leadership Saudi Arabia can play a fundamental role" in the world and in the Middle East.