News Column

Monti, Hollande, Rajoy to Meet on Sidelines of Mediterranean Summit

Oct. 3, 2012
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.

The leaders of Italy, France and Spain will hold a trilateral meeting on Friday, on the sidelines of a two-day summit in Malta between five southern European nations and five north African counterparts.

The meeting - taking place amid rumours of an impeding bailout request by Spain and ongoing negotiations about continuing internatioanl aid to Greece - was announced Wednesday by the office of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome.

Monti's spokeswoman, Elisabetta Olivi, told dpa there were "no particular items" to be discussed with French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The talks between the three leaders were scheduled to start at 6pm (1600 GMT).

The so-called 5+5 summit in the Maltese capital of Valletta was due to last until Saturday.

Leaders from Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, from Portugal and host nation Malta, as well as representatives from regional bodies such as the European Union and the Arab League were also due to attend.

Among the items on the agenda are security, the environment and irregular immigration in the Mediterranean, Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi told reporters.

"We need to discuss ways of putting an end to deaths in the desert and in our seas. We insist that the illegal migration problem is not one country's problem, but a problem of the whole region," Gonzi said.

Thousands of desperate Africans try to cross to Europe every year from Libya and Tunisia - many never make it, others often end up triggering diplomatic spats over which country should assume responsibility for their rescue and status.

It is the first 5+5 meeting since last year's Arab Spring uprisings and last month's tensions between Western nations and the Muslim world over the publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in a French magazine and the release of an anti-Islam film made in the US.

Malta was meant to host the summit in June 2011, but the conflict in Libya forced a postponement. The host nation is currently experiencing a major internal government rift which is threatening an early election.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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