Italy demands French apology, Tria scrubs Le Maire meeting

Paris accused Italian govt of being 'cynical and irresponsible'

13 June, 16:54

    (ANSAmed) - Rome, June 13 - The Italian government on Wednesday called on Paris to apologise for its criticism of Italy's handling of the case of the Aquarius migrant-rescue ship and Economy Minister Giovanni Tria cancelled a meeting with his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire. French President Emmanuel Macron called Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini "cynical and irresponsible" in refusing to allow the Aquarius to offload 629 migrants at an Italian port at the weekend.

    The spokesman for his En Marche party described Italy's migrant policy as "sickening" The NGO-run ship is now in its way to Valencia after Spain agreed to offer a port of safety, although Madrid said Rome's refusal to accept the Aquarius was potentially a criminal case.

    "We have nothing to learn from anyone in terms of solidarity," Salvini, who is also deputy premier and leader of the League party, told the Senate.

    "Our history does not deserve to be reproached in these terms by members of the French government, who I hope apologise.

    "Macron should go from words to deeds and tomorrow morning receive the 9,000 migrants he committed to receiving". The minister said that France has taken only 340 of the 9,816 migrants who were meant to be relocated there in three years.

    "France says that we are cynical but between January 1 and May 31 it turned back 10,249 people at the border, including women and disabled children," Salvini said.

    Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi summoned the French envoy in Rome and said that the "tones used" in Paris's criticism of the handling of the Aquarius case were "unacceptable". "Similar statements are compromising relations between Italy and France," he said, adding that Paris should take action to "rectify the situation". "The Italian government hopes Paris takes initiatives promptly," Moavero said. Le Maire expressed sorrow about the scrubbed meeting.

    "Italian Finance Minister Giovanni Tria's visit has been cancelled and we express sadness," Le Maire said. "There are many important issues to discuss with Tria, in particular in view of the European Council at the end of June". Le Maire added that Tria "will come to Paris in the coming days".

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