Italy summons French envoy, says France compromising ties
Economy minister cancels Paris meeting
More than 900 migrants arrive in Sicily
Italy postponed high-level talks with France yesterday after Paris blasted Rome for its "nauseating" refusal to take in a migrant rescue ship, in a major diplomatic spat.
Italy's new economy minister Giovanni Tria had been due to meet his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Paris Wednesday afternoon.
But the talks were delayed as both countries traded barbs over the fate of more than 600 migrants rescued off the Libyan coast on the weekend.
The asylum seekers remained stranded on the Aquarius vessel, run by French NGO SOS Mediterranee, while Italy and Malta bickered over who should accept them.
Spain finally ended the deadlock Monday by saying the ship could land at its port of Valencia, with its arrival expected later this week.
The incident prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to accuse Italy's new populist government of "cynicism and irresponsibility" for closing its ports to the 629 migrants.
Macron's comments sparked a fierce response from Rome, which called them "unacceptable" and summoned France's ambassador yesterday.
"Such statements are undermining relations between Italy and France," Italy's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini further raised the stakes suggesting a planned meeting between the two countries should be cancelled if France did not issue an "official apology".
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Macron are due to hold talks tomorrow ahead of the European summit on at the end of the month, with a particular focus on migration.
Italy's rejection of the migrants has again highlighted the glaring differences between European Union member states over how to the issue of asylum seekers.
EU leaders in December set an end-June deadline for an overhaul of rules to create a permanent mechanism to deal with migrants.
Under EU rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European nation where they first arrive.