Washington (AFP) – US President Donald Trump on Friday hailed Italy’s novice prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, as “very strong” on immigration, days after the European nation rejected a ship loaded with migrants.
“New prime minister of Italy is great. Got to meet him” at the Group of Seven summit last week in Canada, Trump told Fox News during a wide-ranging interview at the White House.
“Very strong on immigration — like I am, by the way,” the president added.
Conte is a political novice. Weeks ago he was a little-known academic, but on June 1 the anti-establishment 53-year-old was suddenly propelled to the helm of one of the eurozone’s largest economies.
Italy then triggered a row with European nations when it refused to allow the Aquarius, a rescue ship with 629 migrants aboard, to dock at its ports.
Trump has stirred immigration concerns too. He has tightened travel restrictions into the United States, repeatedly pledges to build a wall on the southern US border, and is scrapping with lawmakers over how to restrict immigration while protecting those who came to the country illegally as children.
The US president found Conte to be an ally at the G7, where the Italian sided with Trump on the issue of Russia’s readmission to their exclusive club.