France's Macron told Italy's Conte no offense meant on migrants

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The Aquarius and two Italian ships that have taken some of the migrants are now expected to arrive in Valencia on Saturday night, weather conditions permitting, said SOS Mediterranee's co-founder Sophie Beau.

"The minister #GiovanniTria has cancelled his meeting with the French Minister of the Economy and Finance (Bruno) #LeMaire", his ministry said on Twitter. "Italy is right to say that this has to be shared more widely".

This June 12, 2018 photo released Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by French NGO "SOS Mediterranee" shows migrants on the Aquarius ship after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea.

The issue arose when Italy's new populist government insisted that Malta take in the migrants rescued by the humanitarian ship Aquarius, which it refused to do.

Macron said he "had not made any comment meant to offend Italy and the Italian people", the statement said.

The French government was more conciliatory Wednesday, when the Foreign Ministry said France recognized the burden Italy has carried.

Muscat told the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that Malta was acting in full conformity with its worldwide obligations in rejecting the ship.

"If an official apology doesn't arrive, Prime Minister (Giuseppe) Conte would be right not to go to France", Salvini told reporters.

Meanwhile, France said Wednesday it regretted Tria's decision to cancel the meeting and remained "committed to cooperation and dialogue" with Rome.

Macron's office said Tuesday that France doesn't want to "start a precedent" that would allow some European countries to breach global laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants.

In Germany, the hardline interior minister, Horst Seehofer, pulled out of an integration summit hosted by the chancellor, Angela Merkel, saying Berlin should cooperate with Vienna and Rome in combating illegal immigration.

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"We are acting as a part of Europe".

Conte said he and Macron "agreed on the need to cooperate closely" on migration issues.

The standoff over the Aquarius appeared a clear tactic by Italy's new government to force Europe's hand at the upcoming summit of European Union leaders in Brussels June 28-29.

William Lacy Swing, the director general of the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM), also posted on social media, tweeting, "I fear a major tragedy if states start refusing to accept rescued migrants as was threatened".

More than 1.8 million people have entered Europe irregularly since 2014 and Italy is now sheltering some 170,000 asylum seekers.

Speaking to the Senate Wednesday, Salvini accused France of only receiving 640 of the 9,816 migrants it had promised to take from Italy.

He has repeatedly accused charities of working with human traffickers but said Italy would not stop rescuing migrant boats itself.

He demanded that France move from "words to action and offer a sign of generosity" by taking more in.

The case has reopened one of the main unresolved faultlines in European politics: how to share responsibility for migrants trying to enter the bloc from conflict zones and poor countries, mainly across Africa and the Middle East.

"The law is when a boat is in trouble it's the country and the port that's closest that provides the rescue", Le Drian said.

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