ROME – The Italian government confirmed on Thursday Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron when a diplomatic row erupted after France harshly criticized the Italian authorities’ recent decision regarding the Aquarius case.
A statement issued by the Office of the Italian premier confirmed Conte’s meeting on Friday with Macron for a working lunch and a joint press conference.
Conte’s visit to Paris was nearly canceled on Wednesday after France reacted to Rome’s decision to deny NGO rescue ship Aquarius, with 630 migrants on board, access to its ports.
On Wednesday night, Conte and Macron spoke over the phone to mend the diplomatic fallout, confirming both countries compromise to “provide assistance in accordance with humanitarian guidelines regarding persons at-risk” said the statement which ANSA, Italy’s official news agency, had access to.
“Italy and France must deepen bilateral and European cooperation for an effective migratory policy with the countries of origin and of transit, via better European management of the frontier and a mechanism of solidarity in taking responsibility of refugees,” the note added.
The note also explained that Macron “never intended to express himself in a manner that could offend Italy or the Italian people.”
Paris described the Italian decision as “cynical.”
The NGO rescue ship is now sailing towards the Spanish eastern port of Valencia.
On Wednesday, the Italian League and 5-Star Movement coalition government summoned the French ambassador in Rome, issued a diplomatic protest and demanded an immediate apology.
These diplomatic tensions led to the cancellation of a bilateral meeting between Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria and his French counterpart, Bruno Le Maire.
Members of the Italian cabinet also stated Conte would have been completely in his right to cancel his Paris trip.