June 12, 2018 / 3:49 PM / 5 months ago

Italian prime minister accuses France of hypocrisy over immigration

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte addresses the final news conference of the G7 summit in the Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman - HP1EE691M09DA

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hit back on Tuesday at sharp criticism from France over Italy’s handling of an influx of migrants, accusing Paris of being hypocritical, cynical and rigid.

France earlier denounced Italy’s refusal to take in more than 600 migrants stranded aboard the rescue ship Aquarius in the Mediterranean, and asked Rome to reconsider its position.

Conte’s office issued an unusually toughly worded statement refuting comments from the top echelons of French government.

“The statements around the Aquarius affair that come from France are surprising and show a serious lack of knowledge about what is really happening. Italy can not accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it comes to immigration,” Conte’s office said.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer, editing by Steve Scherer

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