Italy diplomatic tensions flare as migrants head to Spain

Italy summons French envoy as migration row escalates

Italy diplomatic tensions flare as migrants head to Spain

Italy's argument with France came after Macron on Tuesday blasted what he called Italy's cynicism and irresponsibility in turning away the Aquarius.

The French ambassador has been summoned to the Italian Foreign Ministry to explain his government's criticism of Italy's handling of the Aquarius migrant boat affair.

But Italy's foreign minister, Enzo Moavero, kept up the barrage by telling a French envoy that Macron's comments were "unjustifiable" and had compromised bilateral relations.

The migrants aboard the Aquarius, run by French charity SOS Mediterranean, were stuck on the overloaded ship for over 30 hours as Italy and Malta bickered over who should take them. Spain stepped up and offered the Aquarius safe harbor after Italy and Malta both refused.

"We have nothing to learn about generosity, voluntarism, welcoming, and solidarity from anyone", far-right Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told the Senate.

Spain finally ended the deadlock Monday by saying the ship could land at its port of Valencia, with its arrival expected later this week.

"Italy can not accept hypocritical lessons about migration from countries that have always preferred to look away", said a statement from the office of Premier Giuseppe Conte.

"We have to have predictable arrangements, so that rescue boats know where to go", he added, warning that "otherwise, this [could be] a disincentive to rescue, [and] people may lose their lives if this doesn't happen". 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.

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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.

France sought to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

Salvini also accused France of having turned back 10,249 migrants at Italy's northern border since January, "including women, children and disabled people".

Salvini has accused European aid groups of essentially operating taxi services for Libya-based human traffickers, and has said Italy will now refuse them entry.

Meanwhile, an Italian coastguard ship carrying more than 900 migrants was allowed to dock in Sicily on Wednesday.

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

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.

Macron and new Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte were scheduled to meet in Paris on Friday, but Italian news agency ANSA said Wednesday the meeting might be postponed because the conditions weren't right.

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