Bad weather forces migrant ship detour in Mediterranean

Bad weather forces migrant ship detour in Mediterranean

Amid an escalation with France's president over the refusal to take in stranded migrants in the Mediterranean, Emmanuel Macron calling for "not giving in to emotion" and insists he's working with the government in Rome.

Economy Minister Giovanni Tria spoke with his French counterpart after cancelling his meeting, a French finance ministry official said, and both agreed to reschedule their session in coming days.

An Italian coast guard vessel has docked in Sicily with more than 900 migrants aboard, evidence that Italy's new anti-migrant government is still taking in some asylum-seekers but is forcing the rest of Europe to accept others.

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had suggested that a planned meeting between the leaders of the two countries should be cancelled if France did not issue an "official apology".

Italy's new populist government came under fire Tuesday from its European Union neighbours after refusing to let a foreign NGO boat carrying 629 mostly African migrants dock in Italy. But this can not excuse its refusal to allow the Aquarius to dock either.

Salvini also accused France of having turned back 10,249 migrants at Italy's northern border since January, "including women, children and disabled people".

In a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday evening, "the president stressed that none of his comments were meant to offend Italy and the Italian people", Macron's office said in a statement.

Some 629 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, have been in the central Mediterranean since Sunday aboard the Aquarius, a vessel operated by SOS Méditerranée, a Franco-German charity that tries to rescue people making the risky crossing to Europe.

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France tried to take a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday.

"It's a relief for everyone, our teams and of course above all for the survivors, to know that they are finally allowed to head to a safe port in Europe", Beau told reporters in Marseille, France.

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

Macron's office said Tuesday that France doesn't want to "start a precedent" that would allow some European countries to breach global laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants.

Macron's comments sparked a fierce response from Rome, which called them "unacceptable" and summoned France's ambassador Wednesday.

Macron called Conte on Thursday, a source in the prime minister's office said, without elaborating.

Grandi said that, even if the European Union succeeded in helping transit countries to manage the migrant flows before they arrive in Europe, "some people will continue to want to seek asylum in Europe". In practice, the policy has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers have arrived in recent years.

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