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King Juan Carlos to visit Malta in November

Spanish King Juan Carlos I

Spanish King Juan Carlos I

Spanish King Juan Carlos I is expected to visit Malta in November, the first time a Spanish king has visited the island in some 400 years.

Last February, Malta's Ambassador to Spain, Tanya Vella, extended the country's invitation to the Spanish king as she presented her credentials.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is also expected to pay an official visit to Malta in October.

The announcements were made by Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg yesterday morning as he announced that the EU-Arab League liaison centre was expected to open in Malta in October.

Speaking during a recorded radio interview, Dr Borg said the liaison centre, manned by representatives from Malta, the EU and the Arab League, would be housed in the former Malta Council for Economic and Social Development office, close to the police headquarters.

He expressed hope that the office would become a "permanent secretariat" for discussions between the EU and the Arab world.

According to Dr Borg, the opening date was still to be confirmed and both EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, would be attending.

He defended the government's decision to enter the Partnership For Peace, saying that this would not only lead to training opportunities for the armed forces but also to a better position for Malta during EU defence meetings.

Dr Borg said advanced negotiations were underway to rent out parts of Dar Malta in Brussels. He defended the €21 million spent on the prime location as "a good investment".

Speaking about illegal immigration, Dr Borg said the drop in arrivals this year could be due to a 20-year financing agreement between Italy and Libya together with the Italian government's policy to send people it caught entering its territorial waters back to Libya.

The agreement will see Italy financing €250 million worth of projects in Libya annually, and the Dr Borg expressed his belief that this was what led to more cooperation from Libyan authorities in tackling the issue of illegal immigration.

Dr Borg again said that it was unfair to blame either Malta or Italy for the alleged death of more than 70 Eritrean migrants at sea last week. Since the interview was recorded on Friday morning, the AFM has said that soldiers provided fuel to the migrants who were stranded at sea on a rubber dinghy but who refused to be rescued. They did not appear in distress, according to the army.

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