Italian PM Meloni and deputy PM Tajani attend a swearing-in ceremony at the Quirinale Palace, in Rome
Italy's newly appointed Defence Minister Guido Crosetto looks on during the swearing-in ceremony at Quirinale Presidential Palace in Rome, Italy October 22, 2022. Reuters

Arms supplies from Italy to Ukraine will stop as soon as peace talks on ending the Russian invasion begin, the Italian defence minister told parliament on Tuesday, as lawmakers endorsed a government decision to extend military aid throughout 2023.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly pledged to keep supporting Ukraine, despite frictions within her rightist ruling coalition and a divided public opinion on the issue of arms supplies.

"I am aware that military aid will have to end sooner or later, and will end when we will have the peace talks that we are all hoping for," Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said as he addressed the upper house, Senate.

Earlier this month, Italy's cabinet adopted a decree allowing it to keep supplying Ukraine with weapons for the whole of next year without seeking formal approval from parliament for each new shipment.

"There is no doubt that we all want peace, but this goal cannot be pursued without providing assistance to a country facing unilateral aggression in violation of international law," Crosetto said.

Under the previous administration led by Mario Draghi, Italy's government approved five arms shipments to Ukraine, maintaining a state secret on the details of the supplies.

Crosetto said he would follow the same approach.

In November, a governing coalition official told Reuters that Italy was readying a sixth arms package, including air defence systems Kyiv had requested. But the package has not yet been approved.

Following a debate on Crosetto's remarks, the Senate approved, with a 143-29 vote, a resolution seen by Reuters endorsing arms shipments to Ukraine as agreed with NATO and European Union allies.

The resolution - drafted by the ruling coalition, made up of Meloni's Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini's League and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia - also urged the government to boost diplomatic efforts for peace.

Salvini and Berlusconi have both been more ambivalent than Meloni on backing Ukraine, given their historical ties with Russia and President Vladimir Putin. But so far, they have largely toed the prime minister's line.

Some opposition groups, including the left-leaning 5-Star Movement, tabled alternative resolutions that were not put to a vote, which called for a stop to arms supplies and more focus on humanitarian aid and peace-making efforts.