India studying Italian marines solution, Gentiloni diffident

New Delhi looking at proposal with 'positive spirit' - Swaraj

(ANSA) - New Delhi, December 19 - Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has said New Delhi was "studying" an Italian proposal for a consensual solution to a huge dispute over two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen during an anti-piracy mission in 2012. Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, however, expressed skepticism about the likelihood of this producing a breakthrough in the case, which has strained relation between Italy and India for almost three years.
    Swaraj revealed the development in a written response to a question in parliament. On Thursday, Swaraj added in a statement given to ANSA that the Indian government was looking at the proposal with a "positive spirit".
    Tension flared up again this week when the Indian supreme court knocked back a request from one of the marines, Salvatore Girone, to return to Italy for the Christmas holidays and a petition from the other, Massimiliano Latorre, to extend his stay in Italy for health reasons.
    Latorre is receiving treatment in his homeland after suffered a stroke-like attack earlier this year.
    Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Wednesday that the government was poised to call its ambassador to New Delhi back to Rome for "urgent consultations" after the supreme court rulings.
    His diffidence towards New Delhi did not seem changed by Friday's news.
    "The harvest (from the dialogue with India) has been very disappointing," Gentiloni told State broadcaster RAI. "If the agreement is what we saw the other day, then we're not going very far. "I hope that different roads can be found in the next few days".
    Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said this week that Latorre, who was allowed to leave India in September for four months, is in no condition to travel.
    Swaraj said that he did not know how long it would take New Delhi to examine the Italian proposal and stressed that the case "is currently in the hands of the supreme court". Latorre and Girone are accused of killing fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates and opening fire on their fishing trawler while guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012.
    Rome has protested the many delays in the case. Formal charges have not yet been presented Italy successfully fought to ensure New Delhi took the death penalty off the table and dropped the application of a severe anti-terrorism, anti-piracy law, which it said would have equated Italy with a terrorist state.
    Rome argues the case is not in India's jurisdiction as the incident took place outside the country's territorial waters.
    It also says the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India, because they are servicemen who were working on an anti-piracy mission, and allowed to return home.
    Gentiloni said Wednesday that the government would "take a decision within days" on seeking international arbitration in the case.


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