Giulio Terzi makes decision after marines accused of killing fishermen while on anti-piracy patrol are returned to India
The Italian foreign minister, Giulio Terzi, resigned on Tuesday over his government’s decision to return two marines to India to face trial for the murder of fishermen while on anti-piracy duty.
Terzi told the lower house of parliament that he was stepping down to protect the “honour of the country, of the armed forces and Italian diplomacy”.
“I can no longer be part of this government and I announce my resignation,” he said. “My reservations about sending the marines back to India were not listened to.”
The marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, are facing trial in India over the fatal shooting of two fishermen off the southern state of Kerala in February 2012 when they were assigned to protect an Italian commercial tanker. They said they fired warning shots at a boat they believed to be a pirate vessel.
Since the incident, India and Italy have been embroiled in an escalating row at a time when Rome is trying to secure a major deal to sell helicopters to the Indian government.
The marines were allowed home for Christmas and again to vote in February’s Italian elections, on condition they returned to India.
On 11 March, the outgoing technocrat government of Mario Monti said it would not send the marines back because Indian courts did not have jurisdiction over the incident, which Rome said occurred in international waters.
But Italy reversed its position last week after India prevented the Italian ambassador from leaving the country.
Latorre and Girone returned to New Delhi on Friday.
The marines’ anti-piracy duty was conducted under the umbrella of a UN resolution to safeguard shipping from repeated pirate attacks.