Italy has refused to back an expected six-month extension of EU economic sanctions against Russia.
It comes as a surprise to officials in Brussels as EU leaders had struck a tentative agreement at the G20 summit last month.
The 28 EU ambassadors had been set to sign off on the extension, but such a move requires unanimity.
The sanctions were slapped on Moscow over Russian actions in Ukraine.
Italian diplomats said they wanted further discussions to take place at a ministerial level, perhaps at next week’s EU summit.
They say the EU will need to work with Russia on finding a solution to the Syrian conflict.
The foreign ministers of Italy and Russia will meet in Rome on Thursday for talks.