Italy says without France apology Conte-Macron meet should be cancelled

Viktor Orban

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll saying it 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.

An Italian coastguard ship carrying more than 900 migrants was allowed to dock in Sicily Wednesday, after Italy controversially turned away a separate foreign vessel with rescued migrants on board.

The migrants saved by the Aquarius, run by French NGO SOS Méditerranée, were stuck on the overloaded ship for over 30 hours as Italy and Malta bickered over who should take them, before Spain stepped in and offered the port in Valencia as a place for the migrants to land in Europe.

France said it has received no formal request from Italy for an apology, and that it believed the planned meeting between Macron and Conte would go ahead.

Italy's new economy minister Giovanni Tria had been due to meet his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Paris Wednesday afternoon.

Italy's deputy prime minister called for an official apology before any further summits.

Salvini said France had taken in only a fraction of the 9,816 migrants it had pledged to welcome under a 2015 European Union relocation plan to relieve frontline countries Italy and Greece of the burden of caring for newly arrived migrants. He also said that in the five months to the end of May this year France had sent back to Italy 10,249 migrants who had crossed their common border.

"Our history of solidarity, humanity and welcoming spirit does not deserve to be criticized by members of the French government", he said.

Italy's new populist government had earlier said that it would not "accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have preferred to look the other way on immigration".

"Such statements are undermining relations between Italy and France", Italy's foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

"I'm pleased that they [France] have discovered responsibility".

Visiting western France, Macron initially did not respond to questions on the issue, but later told reporters: "We must never give in to emotions, which some people manipulate".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has drawn criticism from her own conservative party for her open-door migrant policy, adopted in 2015, which also provoked a rise in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Many states have fallen short of their pledge, made in 2015, to take some asylum seekers from Italy and Greece - the first port of call for most migrants given their long Mediterranean coastlines - and share the cost of their care.

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.

"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.

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