Italy says without France apology Conte-Macron meet should be cancelled

Matteo Salvini emmanuel Macron

Spain finally ended the deadlock Monday by saying the ship could land at its port of Valencia, with its arrival expected later this week. Some countries feel justified in stopping migrants from entering when they should have registered elsewhere.

"With my German and Austrian colleagues. we will propose a new [immigration] initiative", Salvini said, adding that it would apply both to the EU's external borders and to how member states manage migrants internally.

The migrants aboard the Aquarius, run by French NGO SOS Mediterranee, were stuck on the overloaded ship as Italy and Malta bickered over who should take them.

Salvini, the leader of the far-right, anti-immigration League party, blocked the Aquarius from entering Italian ports this weekend, prompting an worldwide outcry.

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

The move comes hours after Italy summoned the French ambassador to the foreign ministry in Rome.

France tried to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

A day after French President Emmanuel Macron said Rome had acted with "cynicism and irresponsibility" by closing its ports to a migrant ship, Italy's economy minister cancelled a Paris meeting with his counterpart, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte weighed postponing a meeting with Macron scheduled for Friday.

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The chancellor said migration represented a significant challenge for Europe when it was in a "very fragile situation".

Salvini has repeatedly accused fellow European Union members of abandoning Italy as it struggles to cope with an influx of migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

The country has seen more than 700,000 migrants arrive on its shores since 2013.

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.

Salvini shot back that France has turned away thousands of migrants trying to reach France at Italy's northern border.

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S) that makes up Italy's new government alongside the League, minister of labour and, with Salvini, joint deputy prime minister, said that it was "embarrassing" that France "preached to us" as Italy is asking its European partners to share duties with Italy.

Salvini earlier underlined that Italy's ports would no longer be open to foreign boats carrying migrants.

More than 900 people have arrived at the Italian port of Catania in Sicily after being rescued at sea by the Italian Coast Guard. "The coastguard and navy can continue to save lives, but other countries need to keep giving us a hand", he said.

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