Italy Summons French Ambassador in Row Over Migrant Ship

Eileen GuzmanJun 14, 2018

On Wednesday, an Italian government source told Reuters that Mr Conte is "tending towards pushing back the trip to Paris". At the moment the conditions (for the meeting) don't exist.

- Winfield reported from Rome.

"I fear a major tragedy if states start refusing to accept rescued migrants", director general William Lacy Swing said.

The ship had been drifting in the central Mediterranean since Sunday, when both Italy and Malta closed their ports to it.

Spain offered to welcome migrants aboard the Aquarius rescue ship after Italy and Malta refused to take them in.

"If an official apology doesn't arrive, prime minister Conte would be right not to go to France", Salvini told reporters after demanding that France take in more migrants.

Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini further raised the stakes suggesting a planned meeting between the two countries should be cancelled if France did not issue an "official apology".

Salvini called on France to apologise and said he was not prepared to take criticism from a country that regularly stopped migrants on their shared border.

Salvini also told the Senate he was open to a possible "axis" with Germany and Austria on immigration ahead of a key European Union summit at the end of June that will, in part, consider changes to European Union asylum law to better share the burden of incoming migrants.

Macron's office said Tuesday that France doesn't want to "start a precedent" that would allow some European countries to breach global laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants.

The accusation by Paris that Rome acted irresponsibly is "compromising relations between Italy and France", Milanesi said after summoning French ambassador Christian Masset for a meeting on Wednesday morning.

In Germany, the hardline interior minister, Horst Seehofer, pulled out of an integration summit hosted by the chancellor, Angela Merkel, saying Berlin should cooperate with Vienna and Rome in combating illegal immigration.

"It's very clear that Europe needs to reform its asylum system in a collective manner; there's a lot of resistance to that but there's no other way", Grandi said.

Sophie Beau said Wednesday in a news conference in Marseille, France, "it's a relief for everyone, our teams and of course above all for the survivors to know that they are finally allowed to head to a safe port in Europe".

"For me, the question of how we deal with the migration question is something of a litmus test for the future and the unity of Europe, and the interests of every country must be considered", she said.

It would also represent a complete reversal of the open-doors migrant policy she adopted in 2015, which saw more than 1 million migrants enter Germany and is seen as having fuelled a sharp rise in support for the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and caused deep rifts within her conservative bloc.

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