India and Italy seek to 'clear air' over fishermen's deaths


The crew aboard the MV Enrica Lexie (pictured) reportedly mistook the Indian trawler for a pirate vessel, and fired on the fishermen believing they were about to be attacked.



The foreign ministers of Italy and India have failed to resolve a dispute over the arrest of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen, but have agreed that the row must be amicably addressed.

After their first meeting to discuss the incident on Tuesday in New Delhi, Giulio Terzi and SM Krishna said both sides were in agreement on the need “to clear the air.”

Two Italian marines employed to provide security on an oil tanker are being held in the southern city of Kochi while they are investigated for murder in India, after firing on a trawler off the coast of Kerala ten days ago, killing two fishermen.

The Enrica Lexie was travelling to Egypt from Singapore, with a 34-strong crew aboard. Italy says the marines mistook the trawler for a pirate vessel and fired warning shots in self-defence, but India says the fishermen were unarmed.

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The foreign ministers attempted to play down the incident following their meeting.

Terzi, who is to travel to Kochi to meet the two marines before returning to Rome, said while there was “a difference of opinion which is not resolved,” the ministers were continuing to “pursue this issue in a very friendly spirit of understanding and cooperation,” according to The Hindustan Times.

For his part, Krishna told reporters after the talks: “There is a very strong public opinion on both sides. We have agreed that we need to clear the air.”

“Our relationship is mature and based on a strong foundation and we have the maturity to address this challenge together,” he added, according to The Times of India.

According to the BBC, Italy’s deputy foreign minister, Steffan de Mistura also visited India last week, but a series of meetings between Italian and Indian officials have so far failed to yield any consensus on how to resolve the issue.

New Delhi argues that the marines should be tried in India because the killings occurred on an Indian boat, The Associated Press reports. Both men could be executed or be handed a life imprisonment sentence if found guilty.

Rome, on the other hand, insists that the case should be handled in Italy and that the marines have immunity as the tanker was in international waters and flying an Italian flag when the shooting occurred.

The Kerala state government has authorized payments of $10,125 to each of the dead fishermen’s families.

Piracy is a major problem for merchant vessels in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, with Somali pirates hijacking boats and holding their crews for ransom.

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