Conte to meet Macron
The Local: French President Emmanuel Macron attempted to resolve tensions with Italy on Thursday, saying he never meant to cause offense by criticising its rejection of a migrant ship in remarks that sparked fury in Rome.
Macron had ignited the worst Franco-Italian diplomatic spat in years by accusing Rome of “cynicism and irresponsibility” for refusing to take in 629 migrants left stranded on a rescue ship that was eventually welcomed by Spain.
Rome summoned the French ambassador and cancelled a meeting between the countries’ economy ministers, while threatening to call off talks betweenMacron and Italian premier Giuseppe Conte in Paris on Friday unless France issued an “official apology”.
But the tensions appeared to have ebbed after a telephone call on Wednesday night between Macron and Conte.
“The president stressed that none of his comments were intended to offend Italy and the Italian people,” Macron’s office said in a statement. Friday’s lunch meeting between the two leaders will go ahead as planned, the statement added.
Conte told reporters in Rome that the exchange was “very cordial”. Asked whether he thought the row was over, he said: “I very much think so, yes.”
“But now we need to work on reform of the Dublin Agreement,” he added, in reference to controversial EU asylum rules.
The confirmation of his Paris visit came minutes after Italy’s deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio said Rome would “not back down” without a French apology. “The day when people thought they could make a mockery of Italy is over,” Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement that shares power with the far-right League, was quoted by Agi news agency as saying.