Monti Says Ex-Minister Botched India Talks Over Accused SoldiersAndrew Frye and Chiara Vasarri
Italian Premier Mario Monti said ex-Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi botched talks that resulted in the government bowing to demands by India and returning two soldiers to face charges in the killing of two fishermen.
Monti’s criticism was delivered in a speech today in Italy’s lower house of parliament, the same venue where Terzi yesterday announced his resignation and faulted the government for the March 21 decision to send the soldiers back. Comments made by Terzi earlier this month angered India and made the negotiations more difficult, Monti said.
Italy’s strategy “shouldn’t have been the subject of premature statements to the press, which Minister Terzi decided instead to make, previewing a final result that at that point couldn’t be taken for granted,” said Monti, whose speech was interrupted by criticism from lawmakers assembled in the hall.
The return of the soldiers has increased the disfavor Monti, 70, faces in parliament as he nears the end of his 15-month term. The former university president, called to power to impose fiscal austerity and shield Italy from the European debt crisis, finished fourth in elections last month and said today he was ready to leave office.
“This government, and I’ll say it in the most respectful way possible, can’t wait to have its mandate rescinded,” Monti told parliament. “It’s a mandate we didn’t ask for in November 2011. It was the world of politics that found the situation too complicated to handle it.”
Monti’s caretaker administration will be disbanded once lawmakers in the divided parliament come together behind a new premier. Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the biggest coalition, was given a mandate last week to assemble a majority and is scheduled to meet President Giorgio Napolitano tomorrow to give the results of his consultations.
Monti is responsible for the failure to shield the soldiers from the Indian justice system, lawmakers from Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement and Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party said in separate speeches after the premier spoke. Lorenzo Dellai, a representative from Monti’s Civic Choice party, said Terzi’s resignation was politically motivated.
The soldiers at the center of the case were charged with shooting dead two fishermen in February 2012, while they were guarding an Italian-flagged tanker from pirate attacks. The Supreme Court of India in February allowed the marines to leave the country to vote in Italy’s election after assurances by Italy that they would be sent back within four weeks.
The soldiers were sent back to India on March 22.