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Macron 'never meant to offend' Italy with migrant comments

15 June, 2018, 01:42 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Italian Infrastructure minister Danilo Toninelli

Italy's refusal to accept the ship marked the first major anti-migrant move since far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini took office in June.

"If an official apology doesn't arrive, Prime Minister Conte would be right not to go to France", Salvini told reporters. Some countries feel justified in stopping migrants from entering when they should have registered elsewhere.

Reflecting on Macron's accusations that the Italian government was "irresponsible" for denying entry to the Aquarius vessel, stranded in worldwide waters with hundreds of migrants onboard, Borghezio, a politician from Italy's Northern League party, explained that Rome may have not opened its ports, but it provided "full humanitarian assistance" to those aboard.

With several days' sailing to go before they reach the Spanish coast, worsening weather and many onboard suffering from sea sickness, the Italian coastguard ship leading the convoy made a decision to direct the boats closer to land.

France tried to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said France was "fully aware of the burden that the migration pressure is placing on Italy" and that it was committed to cooperating with Rome on immigration.

Italy's new Economy Minister Giovanni Tria meanwhile announced he was cancelling a meeting with his French counterpart Bruno le Maire in Paris. At the moment the conditions (for the meeting) don't exist. The Aquarius, with some 600 people saved from the sea over the last few weeks, is sailing to Spain after the country agreed to welcome the ship.

Italy recalled its French ambassador after Macron's comments.




A European Union summit later in June is due to consider changes to asylum law to better share the burden of incoming migrants.

"I am happy about the good cooperation that we want to develop between Rome, Vienna and Berlin - I think it marks very sensible cooperation that will contribute to reducing illegal migration to Europe", said Kurz, whose country assumes the EU's rotating presidency on July 1. He declared his support for Kurz's proposal for a three-way "axis of the willing" with Italy to fight illegal migration.

On Wednesday, she said discussions between Italy, Germany and Austria were about finding "a Europe-wide solution".

Refugees have continued to arrive as politicians trade blame.

An Italian coast guard ship carrying more than 900 Libyan migrants docked in Sicily Wednesday, just barely after the Rome government rejected entry to a boatload of others.

Still at sea were 41 migrants rescued Tuesday by the U.S. Navy vessel Trenton, which was in the Mediterranean for what the U.S. 6th Fleet said was a routine operation.

However, the Sea Watch is still waiting to pick them up, asking for a written guarantee that it will be allowed to dock in an Italian port.

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