Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who is visiting Israel, on Tuesday accused the European Union of being biased against Israel.
"The European Union in recent years has been absolutely unbalanced... in its management of the conflict in the Middle East, condemning and punishing Israel every 15 minutes," he told journalists, according to AFP.
Salvini referred to Israel as "a safe haven for European and Western values in the region", while adding that "whoever wants peace supports Israel".
Asked why he did not have any plans to meet Palestinian Authority leaders, he replied he would do so on his next visit as his schedule was full this time.
Salvini met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday during his 24-hour visit to the country.
He also met with Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan and told him that he is "proud to be here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and to defend Israel and defend Israel. Israel is a fortress for the defense of Europe and the Middle East."
Salvini, who heads Italy's anti-immigration League party, rejected criticism he has faced over his visit.
"This is the fourth time I have come to Israel, and the fourth time I have been to Yad Vashem," he said, referring to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem that he is scheduled to visit on Wednesday.
"Our government will fight all forms of anti-Semitic violence, regardless of how it manifests itself," he vowed.
Erdan also rejected the criticism by the left of his meeting with Salvini.
"Those who claim that there is no need to meet with such a senior and influential leader, like the Italian deputy prime minister and interior minister, should also demand that meetings with the inciter Abu Mazen be boycotted, oppose the European contacts with the evil empire of Iran and demand that the terrorist supporter Za’atara (the candidate to become deputy mayor of Haifa -ed.) not serve in any position. But you will not hear any of that because it’s all political hypocrisy from the left,” he tweeted.