Italy diplomatic tensions flare as migrants head to Spain

Viktor Orban

Salvini, who is also deputy premier and the leader of the anti-immigrant League party, called on France to apologise and said he was not prepared to take criticism from a country which regularly stopped migrants on their shared border. The border crossing point at Ventimiglia has been the scene of protests and desperation for years as France has refused to let in migrants, many of whom are seeking to reach family in France or Germany.

On Monday, Spain said that it would be welcoming the Aquarius and allowing it to dock in Valencia.

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

In a speech to the senate on Wednesday, Matteo Salvini - who is also Italy's interior minister and head of the nationalist League party - said that France had only taken in 640 of the more than 9,000 people it had promised to take from Italy.

United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi urged the European Union on Wednesday to sort out its "shameful" refugee policy after both Italy and Malta turned away a ship carrying hundreds of migrants.

Italy's Foreign Ministry in Rome, where the French ambassador was summoned after a diplomatic spat over a stranded migrant ship.

"The same can not be said of France, which has often adopted much more rigid and cynical immigration policies". The migrant ship Aquarius is now headed to Valencia in Spain.

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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 relations between the two countries.

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

Salvini 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.

"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.

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

The Diciotti ship arrived at the port of Catania and the migrants began to disembark, an AFP photographer saw.

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.

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