Migration dispute escalates between France and Italy

Italy Summons French Envoy After Macron Blasts Refusal to Accept Migrant Ship

Italy postponed high-level talks with France Wednesday after Paris blasted Rome for its "nauseating" refusal to take in a migrant rescue ship, in a major diplomatic spat.

Foreign Minister 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".

On Tuesday, French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux quoted President Emmanuel Macron as accusing Italy of acting with "a form of cynicism and a measure of irresponsibility". Spain stepped up and offered the Aquarius safe harbor after Italy and Malta both refused.

"I speak in the name of a government, but I also have the aim of speaking for a people who have nothing to learn from anyone about generosity, volunteerism, welcome and solidarity", Salvini, the leader of the anti-migrant League party, said to applause in the Senate chamber.

Macron, for his part, said he could not apologise for criticising Italy's hardline migrant stance in rejecting rescue ship Aquarius, saying "I can't say those who provoke are right".

A government source said Conte still did not see the right "conditions" for a Friday meeting with Macron.

"Europe must stick together", she said, acknowledging Italy's concern that it had taken in many migrants but fellow European Union countries were not showing sufficient solidarity. Mr Salvini said he plans to visit his conservative German counterpart in Berlin soon to hammer out new proposals on the boat row and the broader issue of migrant quotas. He said this had been "active, constant, constructive work, work without let-up by France which, since last summer up to a few days ago on Libya, has come to the fore in partnership with Italy".

Matteo Salvini accused France of turning back 10,000 migrants on its border with Italy. Italian maritime vessels, however, are still docking in its ports: on Wednesday, an Italian coast guard vessel docked in Catania, Sicily with 932 migrants aboard.

Under the EU's asylum laws - now the subject of revision amid a major political dispute - migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe.

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

He has accused charities of working with human traffickers but said Italy would not stop rescuing migrant boats itself.

A Dutch-flagged humanitarian ship, the Sea Watch 3, was called by a U.S. Navy vessel to take on board 41 survivors and 12 bodies recovered after a shipwreck on Tuesday. The French president's office said France didn'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.

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