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The Latest: Macron meets with Italy’s Conte over migrants

The Latest: Macron meets with Italy's Conte over migrants
The Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on Europe’s migrant crisis (all times local)

7:50 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says he had a “useful” meeting with Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte about the migrant problem.

The meeting, in Rome Monday evening, hadn’t been publicized, since Macron had come officially only for talks with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

But Macron told reporters Tuesday evening that with Conte he discussed “how to respond in the most efficient manner” to the issue of migratory flows, a problem which has sharply divided the European Union.

Macron and Conte also discussed eurozone issues, amid a rise of populist sentiment calling the euro currency’s future into question. Conte’s government is a coalition of the euroskeptic 5-Star Movement and League parties.

Political pressures on EU-member governments over migrants loom large over this week’s key European Council meeting.

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7:15 p.m.

Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service says it has picked up just over 400 people from the Mediterranean in a day as migrants hasten to reach Spain from North Africa while the weather remains fair.

Monday’s rescues bring the total number of rescued migrants to around 1,800 in four days of calm seas.

Authorities say 273 people were rescued from 15 boats crossing the Strait of Gibraltar — the shortest route between the African and European continents in the western Mediterranean.

Also Monday, 132 people were pulled from three boats slightly to the east, in the area of Alboran island, which lies about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the Moroccan coast and 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the Spanish province of Almeria.

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6:50 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says France will join other countries who are offering to take in migrants from a German aid group’s rescue ship.

Macron said on Tuesday that Malta agreed to assign a port to the Lifeline, which has been sailing off the island nation for five days in the latest Mediterranean Sea showdown between European leaders.

Macron says France and other countries are working out how to divide the more than 200 rescued passengers.

Italy’s prime minister announced the same plan earlier Tuesday, but Malta’s prime minister hasn’t yet confirmed that the Lifeline has been given the greenlight to stop in his country.

The French president says Europe is not in the midst of a migration crisis, but rather a political crisis.

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5:25 p.m.

Portugal has offered to take in some of the more than 200 migrants aboard a rescue ship which has been idling for days in the Mediterranean Sea without a port to pull into.

The center-left Socialist government says it will know how many people it will accept from the ship operated by German group Mission Lifeline if the ship docks in Malta, a destination Italy’s premier announced on Tuesday.

Portuguese Internal Administration Minister Eduardo Cabrita tells lawmakers that migrants on the ship will be assigned to “several countries” in the European Union.

The rescue ship has been caught in a political limbo after Italy and Malta — the European countries nearest to where it picked up the migrant passengers— denied it safe harbor.

The Italian and Maltese governments say the vessel’s crew had ignored orders from Italy’s rescue command center.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa has backed calls from other European Union leaders for the 28-nation bloc to make sure countries are sharing the work created by illegal immigration.

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5:15 p.m.

A rescue ship operated by French aid groups that was the subject of a political showdown before it was cleared to dock in Spain is heading to the French port of Marseille for a tuneup.

SOS Mediterranee operations director Frederic Penard said at a news conference on Tuesday that the Aquarius underwent repairs and mechanical checks in Sicily for two years, but “the atmosphere now in Italy don’t guarantee us a serene stop.”

Earlier this month, Spain took in 630 migrants from the Aquarius after Malta and Italy, which were closer, refused to grant the ship access to their ports.

SOS Mediterranee co-founder Sophie Beau urged European leaders to initiate “a global rescue plan” to enforce international maritime laws, including “the obligation to assist any ship in distress

The Aquarius is expected to arrive in Marseille on Friday.

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3:05 p.m.

Macedonian authorities say two migrants have been killed and six severely injured when a smuggling van carrying 23 people crashed into a metal barrier on a motorway in eastern Macedonia.

Police spokeswoman Hrizantema Rendevska told the Associated Press Tuesday that the migrants were all men, aged 20-30, from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Two were pronounced dead on the spot, six were taken to the hospital with serious injuries, and 15 others were slightly injured.

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2 p.m.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says Italy will take some of the migrants onboard the rescue ship run by the German group Mission Lifeline, which has been stranded near Malta for days.

Conte said in a statement Tuesday that he made the pledge in a call to the prime minister of Malta. He added that he hoped that other EU countries would follow suit.

The Lifeline has been stranded in international waters some 25 miles from the coast of Malta for days, after both Italy and Malta refused to allow it to dock in their ports. Both countries underlined that the ship had acted improperly by not following the orders of the Italian command center directing rescues at sea.

More than 200 migrants are on board the ship. The impasse came after a similar standoff over another private rescue boat, the Aquarius.

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12:30 p.m.

Spain’s prime minister says his country is prepared to be part of a European response to the plight of a German-operated migrant aid ship, but isn’t specifying whether it will allow the vessel to dock.

Earlier this month, Spain took in 630 migrants from the French aid ship Aquarius after Malta and Italy refused it access. A similar situation has now arisen with a ship operated by the German aid group Mission Lifeline, which has been stuck off Malta since Thursday with 234 migrants aboard.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was asked during a visit to Berlin Tuesday whether Spain would offer safe harbor. He replied that “Spain will be in the common answer that we give, in this case, to the Lifeline ship but it has to be common, it has to be European, it has to be from various countries.”

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12:15 p.m.

The leader of Malta says his island nation is working to solve the case of a German-run rescue ship stuck in international waters with 234 migrants on board.

In a statement Tuesday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Malta aims “to prevent escalation into humanitarian crisis” by sharing the responsibility with other fellow EU nations. No details were given, and the statement did not say whether Malta would allow the vessel to dock.

The statement also said that Malta planned to investigate the captain of the Lifeline, run by a German non-governmental agency, nothing that he had ignored instructions.

The ship has been stranded for days since Italy’s populist interior minister refused to allow it access to ports, echoing the case of the Aquarius that was refused entry to Italy and Malta, only to be taken in by Spain, 1500 kilometers (900 miles) away.

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11:45 a.m.

Fearful of a domino effect if Germany closes its borders, Austria has conducted a high-profile training exercise to show how it could deal with an influx of migrants along its frontier with Slovenia.

Hundreds of police and soldiers staged a dry run Tuesday near Spielfeld, 175 kilometers (110 miles) south of Vienna. The town was a major crossing point for migrants in the summer and fall of 2015.

Thousands of migrants poured through Europe’s open borders daily three years ago, triggering a humanitarian and political crisis that has left deep divisions on the continent.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure from conservative allies in Bavaria to turn migrants back at the border, a move that could prompt others to do the same.

Hardly any migrants have been arriving in Spielfeld recently.

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