Friday 16 November 2018

Italian fury over migrant spat

French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Ludovic Marin/Pool via Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Ludovic Marin/Pool via Reuters

Rory Mulholland

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has sought to end a bitter diplomatic dispute with Italy, saying he never meant to cause offence by accusing Rome of "cynicism and irresponsibility" when it refused to take in a ship carrying hundreds of migrants.

Italy demanded an apology after Mr Macron berated the country's new populist government for closing its ports to the Aquarius, a ship run by a French charity which had rescued 629 migrants in the Mediterranean. They are now on the way to Spain, after the country's Socialist government offered to take in the survivors.

Pope Francis has meanwhile weighed into the row, rebuking politicians for not respecting the dignity of migrants and demanding "a change in mindset".

Mr Macron's apology came after a telephone call between Mr Macron and Giuseppe Conte, the new prime minister of Italy, during which they discussed the plight of the Aquarius.

His office said: "The president stressed that none of his comments was intended to offend Italy and the Italian people."

A meeting in Paris between the two leaders will go ahead today, despite earlier threats to call it off if Mr Macron did not make amends for his criticism of Italy's dramatic bid to force its European partners to better share the burden of ongoing mass arrivals of migrants.

Bad weather yesterday forced the Aquarius to change course, delaying its estimated arrival into Valencia until tomorrow night or Sunday morning.

NGO workers raised concerns about the impact of the gruelling voyage of those on board the three boats, among whom are seven pregnant women, 123 unaccompanied minors, and many people suffering from dehydration, exposure or chemical burns. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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