Italy won't duck int'nal commitments -FM

'Fully involved in' Sophia mission

(ANSA) - Rome, July 9 - Foreign Minister Enrico Moavero Milanesi said on the prospect of revising the EU's migrant rescue mission Sophia that "we won't duck our international commitments, we are full involved (in Sophia) and we don't intend to move outside the framework of international law, and therefore European law". Moavero Milanesi was speaking after the European Commission said Sophia's remit would be strategically revised soon.
    He also spoke after Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Italy would close its ports to European navy ships, as it has done with NGO ships.
    The mandates of the EunavForMed Sophia and Themis missions do not envisage all the EU ships involved necessarily offloading their rescued migrants in Italy, EU sources said Monday. Both the Sophia and the Themis mandates envisage the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) deciding what is the safe European port to offload migrants, and this is not necessarily envisaged in the MRCC's home country, the sources said.
    European Commission migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said Monday the EC would shortly discuss Interior Minister Salvini's demand to close Italian ports to ships taking part in international missions that rescue migrants. "A revision of the strategic mandate" of Operation Sophia "is imminent", she said.
    "Therefore that will be the occasion to discuss Italian proposals," she said.
    Salvini has called for the closure of Italian ports to EU EUNAVFOR Med mission ships but the Italian defence ministry has said he is not competent to do so.
    Labour and Industry Minister and Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio on Monday called for new rules of engagement for the European Union's EUNAVFOR Med mission in the Mediterranean. He was commenting after the differences over migrant rescues emerged on Sunday between Salvini and the defence ministry.
    Salvini, who is also a deputy premier and the leader of the rightwing League party, called for the closure of Italian ports to vessels engaged in international missions in the Mediterranean after an Irish navy ship took 106 rescued asylum seekers to Messina at the weekend.
    A defence ministry source said that this decision was not Salvini's competence.
    Salvini has spearheaded the new League-5-Star Movement government's tough stance on migration, which has seen access to Italian ports denied to NGO vessels rescuing asylum seekers at sea.
    "For as long as the EUNAVFOR Med mission is standing, the only ports (open to it) are the Italian ones," Di Maio told Radio 1.
    "But our aim is to change the rules of engagement of the mission".
    Salvini, Di Maio and Premier Giuseppe Conte huddled over the migrant issue in Rome Monday.