Italy-France talks halted over ship row

Italy-France talks halted over ship row

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ROME: Italy’s Economy Minister Giovanni Tria has postponed talks scheduled for Wednesday with his French counterpart amid a row over a migrant ship.

A French official said the ministers had agreed by phone to meet in the coming days instead.

The development came on a day of diplomatic twists between the nations.

Earlier, Italy had summoned the French ambassador after France’s president attacked it for not allowing a rescue boat to dock.

There were also suggestions that a scheduled meeting between Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and French President Emmanuel Macron should not go ahead in Paris on Friday.

Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said it “would be right not to go to France” unless Paris officially apologised for its comments on the rescue ship.

On Sunday, Italy refused to allow an NGO ship with 629 rescued migrants aboard to dock in its ports.

Spain said it would give “safe harbour” to the ship, the Aquarius, to avoid a humanitarian disaster – but French President Emmanuel Macron said Italy had been “cynical and irresponsible” to turn it away.

A spokesman for Mr Macron’s party described the Italian government’s position as “sickening”.

“It’s unacceptable to play politics with human lives, which is what is happening at the moment,” Gabriel Attal told the Public Senat channel.

The criticism angered Italy, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hit back at France, calling its stance on migrants “hypocritical”.

Italian Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio added: “I’m glad the French have discovered responsibility. If they want, we will help them. Let them open their ports and we will transfer a few of the people to France.”

He criticised “countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it comes to immigration”.__BBC

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