Italy regrets death of fishermen

But, differences between New Delhi and Rome persist

 A week after two Indian fishermen were shot dead by two Italian Navy personnel off the coast of Kerala, Rome on Wednesday for the first time publicly regretted the incident that embroiled it in a diplomatic row with New Delhi.

cara mia: Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan De Mistura (left) kisses the hand of Minister of State for External Affairs  Preneet Kaur during a meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday.  AFP

“We do acknowledge and recognize that two Indian fishermen died. No one doubts it, and it is terribly sad,” Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura told journalists after meeting his Indian counterpart and Minister of State Preneet Kaur, here.
The meeting, however, failed to end the impasse.

Rome rushed Mistura to New Delhi in the wake of the diplomatic row over the arrest of two Italian Navy personnel by the Kerala Police in connection with the killing of Indian fishermen on February 15 . Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Maria Terzi di Sant’Agata is also likely to come to India next Tuesday on a pre-scheduled visit. New Delhi, however, continued to negate Rome’s contention that Indian laws would not apply on Italian Navy personnel as the alleged incident took place at a time when the vessel was sailing in international waters. Preneet Kaur made it clear to Mistura that the issue would be dealt with in accordance with the law of the land.

She also told her Italian counterpart that India had a “very fair and free judiciary” that would take the right decision.

“As far as the law point is concerned, they have their interpretations and we have our interpretations…So as far as we are concerned in India, we certainly will go by our law,” she told journalists after an hour-long meeting with Mistura.

“This tragic incident needs to be analysed properly and we can continue having a proper dialogue about finding a solution to it,” said the Italian Deputy Foreign Minister.

He added that the ties between the two countries were “very important” for both Italy and India.

Mistura said that his meeting with Kaur resulted in an agreement on three points, but Kaur denied having reached any understanding. “The only agreement is that the law will take its own course,” she said.

The Italian Deputy Foreign Minister arrived in New Delhi to take discussions between India and Italy on the issue to a political level.

The Italian Government had earlier sent a delegation of officials from its defence, justice and foreign ministries.

After meeting Kaur in New Delhi, he flew to Thiruvananthapuram later on Wednesday to meet Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Meeting the families

He is also likely to go to Kochi to meet the families of the deceased fishermen and hold discussions with senior police officials involved in investigations into the case. Italian Navy personnel Lotorre Massimilano and Salvatore Girone were arrested by Kerala Police on Sunday for allegedly opening fire at an Indian fishing vessel off the coast of Kerala from onboard “MV Enrica Lexie”, which was on its way from Singapore to Egypt.

The Indian Coast Guard had intercepted the vessel after the incident and made it berth off the coast of Kochi for investigation.

Italian Embassy in New Delhi had earlier alleged that MV Enrica Lexie had been attacked in international waters about 30 nautical miles of the south west coast of India on Wednesday.

“Italian navy personnel on board following international protocols after repeated warnings and, after ascertaining from binoculars that the pirates were armed, gradually fired some warning shots and the pirates withdrew,” it had claimed.

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