Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Never wanted to offend Italy - Macron - English

Never wanted to offend Italy - Macron - English

Italy escalated its quarrel with France over migration Wednesday, challenging the bordering country to take in more asylum-seekers and demanding an apology after the French president accused the new Italian government of irresponsible behaviour for refusing entry to a rescue ship with hundreds of migrants aboard.

Italy's new economy minister shelved a meeting with his French counterpart in Paris as their countries traded barbs over the treatment of more than 600 migrants rescued off the Libyan coast at the weekend.

The vessel, run by charity organizations, was denied port entry also by Malta, and was eventually offered to dock in Spain.

The ship was eventually rerouted to Spain, after Spanish authorities said it would be allowed to dock in Valencia.

Italy recalled its French ambassador after Macron's comments.

The meeting, scheduled for Friday in Paris, was jeopardized on Wednesday, after the French president slammed Italian government for a "cynical" response to the migrant ship crisis.

The case touched on one of the main faultlines in European politics - how to share the responsibility of handling migrants trying to get into the bloc from war zones and poor countries, largely across Africa and the Middle East.


The standoff over the Aquarius appeared a clear tactic by Italy's new government to force Europe's hand at the upcoming summit of European Union leaders in Brussels June 28-29. 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.

But he stressed that "the reason why Italy said it had closed ports is something we need to listen to". "[Conte's] visit is now neither confirmed nor canceled, but we would like him to arrive", Loiseau told Europe 1 radio.

An Italian coastguard ship carrying more than 900 migrants was allowed to dock in Sicily on Wednesday.

This June 12, 2018 photo released Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee" shows migrants on the Aquarius ship after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.

They were saved during several rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

The port of Valencia is some 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) from where the vessel had been on standby.

Salvini, who is also deputy premier and the leader of the anti-immigrant League party, called on France to apologise and said he was not prepared to take criticism from a country which regularly stopped migrants on their shared border. Some countries feel justified in stopping migrants from entering when they should have registered elsewhere. The boat is being escorted by two Italian ships on a journey that will take four days.

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