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Italy well served by deal with Libya - ambassador

Italy does not seem too keen to take part in Frontex patrols in the central Mediterranean with its Ambassador to Malta insisting his country was well served by the bilateral agreement with Libya.

Ambassador Paolo Andrea Trabalza said he was not aware of any decision yet by his government on whether to take part or not in this year's Frontex patrols. Instead, he spoke about the agreement with Libya, which sees rescued immigrants being immediately returned to the North African state.

"In my view, the bilateral agreement with Libya has worked pretty well. Since this agreement started being implemented very few immigrants have crossed the Mediterranean to the extent that the closed centres in Malta are almost empty," he said.

After Malta said it would not take part in Frontex patrols under the new rules of engagement, which stipulate that rescued immigrants are taken to the coordinating country rather than the closest, safest port, it is unclear whether sea border patrols will be held in the central Mediterranean.

A spokesman for Frontex said it was the organisation's policy "not to discuss details of specific internal decision-making or operational plans" when asked whether any country had offered to coordinate this year's central Mediterranean sea patrols, codenamed Operation Chronos.

The Prime Minister said last week Malta would have no problem taking part in missions if there were different rules of engagement decided by all participating states and bypassing the approved recommendations.

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