Mario Monti says Italy would have risked diplomatic isolation had the stand-off with India continued

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Wednesday defended his decision to send back two marines to India, where they will face a trial for the murder of two fishermen.

The outgoing premier told Parliament that his initial threat not to send back the marines to India was part of a negotiation strategy that should have remained confidential. He blamed Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi — who resigned over the issue on Tuesday — for making “rash” statements to the press that led to the “hardening” of India’s stance.

Italy eventually backed down after obtaining assurances from India that the marines would not be arrested upon their return to New Delhi, or sentenced to death if convicted.

Mr. Monti said there were “serious risks” of Italy being isolated internationally had the government decided to continue the diplomatic stand-off. He also said a path, which would lead to a “rapid solution” of the marines’ case, had been found.

India wants to try the two marines, who were deployed on an oil tanker, for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates in February last year. Italy claims India has no jurisdiction over the case because it took place in international waters.

Following the offshore incident, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre were handed over to Indian authorities. They were detained and later freed pending the trial and allowed to return to their home country for four weeks.

On March 11, the Monti government said they would not be returned to India as promised, but later caved in and sent them back to New Delhi on March 22 after India threatened to stop Italy’s ambassador from leaving the country.

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