Italy threatens to CANCEL Macron meeting as tensions SOAR in immigration clash

Italy threatens to CANCEL Macron meeting as tensions SOAR in immigration clash

Matteo Salvini accused France of turning back 10,000 migrants on its border with Italy.

The row centres on the charity ship Aquarius, which both Italy and Malta refused to let dock at their ports.

Mr Macron had suggested Italy's new leadership was attempting to make a high-profile break with previous governments in refusing to take in the ship, instead of dealing with underlying issues such as development and security in the migrants' home countries.

Muscat told the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that Malta was acting in full conformity with its global obligations in rejecting the ship.

"We believe an axis of the willing is needed to fight illegal migration", he said.

Macron told ministers in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday the Italian government had acted cynically and irresponsibly in its refusal to welcome the Aquarius, according to French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

"Such statements are undermining relations between Italy and France", Italy's foreign ministry said in a statement. But the French economy ministry later said the ministers had "agreed that Mr Tria will come to Paris in the coming days". Italy for years has complained that it has been left largely alone to manage Europe's migrant crisis, but the new government says its tactics have finally gotten the point across.

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Salvini has repeatedly accused fellow European Union members of abandoning Italy as it struggles to cope with migrants making the perilous journey from Africa across the Mediterranean. Euronews reporter Anelise Borges is on board and has the latest on the situation.

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

France was to have accepted a total of 19,714 migrants from Italy and Greece; in all, it accepted 4,677.

On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz hailed cooperation between the hardline interior ministers of Austria, Germany and Italy on the question of migrants.

On Wednesday, an Italian coast guard vessel docked in Catania, Sicily with more than 900 migrants aboard in a sign that Italy under the populist 5-Star Movement and anti-migrant League is still accepting some migrants, but is forcing other countries to share the burden.

They were saved during several rescue operations off the coast of Libya.

The U.N. refugee agency's chief, Italian national Filippo Grandi, told Reuters it was "shameful" that two European countries refused to take in vulnerable migrants. We need to talk to Italy, this is a big partner, a big neighbor... It was carrying 629 migrants and is now heading to Spain, which offered safe harbour, escorted by two Italian ships.

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