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Russia Presents Info on Missile US Says Violates Pact

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The Russian military on Wednesday rolled out a new missile and released its specifications, seeking to dispel the U.S. claim that the weapon violates a key nuclear arms pact.

The military insisted that the 9M729 land-based cruise missile conforms to the limits of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, firmly rejecting the U.S. claim that it has broken the pact by testing and deploying it.

 

The U.S. has announced its intention to abandon the INF, charging that the new Russian missile violates provisions of the pact that ban production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles). Washington said it will suspend its treaty obligations if Russian fails to come into compliance by destroying all of its 9M729 missiles by Feb. 2.

 

Lt. Gen. Mikhail Matveevsky, the chief of the military’s missile and artillery forces, said at a meeting with foreign military attaches that the new missile, which is part of the Iskander-M missile system, has a maximum range of 480 kilometers (298 miles).

 

He said that the 9M729 missile differs from the previous 9M728 model by having a more powerful warhead and guidance system that enhances its precision.

 

The general then took the military attaches on a tour of the missile along with its mobile launcher displayed at the military’s exhibition center near Moscow.

 

Matveevsky insisted that the new missile’s booster, cruising engine and fuel tank remain unchanged. He rejected the U.S. claim that the missile’s increased length reflected a bigger fuel tank allowing a greater range, saying the size of the tank and the amount of fuel are identical to the older model.

 

The general noted that the new missile actually has a range 10 kilometers (6 miles) less than the older type due to heavier warhead and control systems.

 

Matveevsky particularly emphasized that the new missile can’t be modified in field conditions.

 

He explained that the upgraded mobile launcher for the new type of missile is bigger because it carries four of them rather than the previous two.

 

Matveevsky noted that the presentation underlined Russia’s “increased transparency and our adherence to the INF Treaty.”

 

The Kremlin has staunchly denied the U.S. claim of Russian violations of the pact.

 

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov noted Wednesday that the U.S. hasn’t put forward any data to prove its claim that Russia has tested the missile at a range exceeding the treaty’s limit. He said the U.S. ignored Moscow’s offer to inspect the missile made during talks in Geneva earlier this month — a refusal he alleged reflected the lack of U.S. interest in meaningful negotiations.

 

He said the U.S. has made it clear during diplomatic contacts that President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the pact is final and not subject to talks.

 

“We were given a clear message that this decision isn’t an invitation to dialogue and is final,” Ryabkov said.

 

U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson, who led the American side in the talks, has said that Moscow’s offer is inadequate.

 

“To see the missile does not confirm the distance that missile can travel, and at the end of the day that’s the violation of the treaty,” she told reporters last week.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that it makes no sense for Russia to violate the pact by deploying the new land-based missile because it has similar missiles on ships and aircraft that are allowed by the INF Treaty.

 

The prospective collapse of the INF Treaty has raised concern in Europe, where many feared it would set the stage for a repeat of a Cold War showdown in the 1980s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the continent.

 

Such missiles were seen as particularly destabilizing as they only take a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving no time for decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.

 

Putin has warned that if the U.S. deploys such weapons in Europe after abandoning the treaty, Russia will respond by targeting nations that would host them.

 

 

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Businesses Sound Alarm as UK Says Prepare for No-Deal Brexit

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A senior British Cabinet minister says businesses need to prepare for the possibility the U.K. will leave the European Union in March without an exit deal, as a growing number of British firms say they are stockpiling goods or shifting operations overseas.

Last week British lawmakers threw out Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU divorce deal, and attempts to find a replacement are gridlocked. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Wednesday that “no deal is a possibility.”

 

Many business groups say a “no-deal” Brexit will cause economic chaos by imposing tariffs, customs checks and other barriers between the U.K. and the EU, its biggest trading partner.

 

Carolyn Fairbairn of the Confederation of British Industry says politicians must rule out a no-deal Brexit “to halt irreversible damage and restore business confidence.”

 

 

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Italy Accuses France of ‘Impoverishing Africa’ As Migration Tensions Erupt

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A diplomatic spat between Italy and France over migration to Europe is a likely forerunner of coming political battles in the run-up to European Parliament elections, according to analysts.

Paris summoned the Italian ambassador this week after Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio accused France of “impoverishing African countries.”

“If today we still have people leaving Africa, it is due to several European countries, first of all France, that didn’t finish colonizing Africa,” Di Maio told reporters Sunday.

“The European Union should sanction all those countries, like France, that are impoverishing African countries and obliging those people to leave. The place for African people is Africa and not at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea,” he added. “If we want to stem the departures (of migrants), let’s start addressing this issue, let’s start coping with it also within the United Nations, not only at the European Union level. Italy has to make itself heard.” 

Di Maio said France was manipulating the economies of 14 African countries that use the CFA franc, a currency underwritten by the French Treasury and pegged to the Euro.

​Analyst Luigi Scazzieri of the Center For European Reform says while there is opposition to the CFA franc in some African countries, Di Maio’s accusations are misleading.

“Now there’s two reasons for that. One of them being that at the moment the latest data suggests they (migrants) are not from countries using the CFA franc. And the second point is that in any case, if countries remain poor, migration is actually lower,” Scazzieri told VOA.

The latest EU figures show that many African migrants to Europe come from former Italian colonies, such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Franco-Italian dispute follows the drowning of hundreds of migrants off Libya in recent days. The deaths have renewed the focus on Italy’s decision to end search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean – and on the European Union’s failure to agree a system to share quotas of refugees, analyst Scazzieri said.

“Italy (is) wanting France to take migrants who arrive on its shores, or at least part of them. And also disagreements over how to handle Libya, with Italy and France backing different sides in the Libyan civil war,” he said.

WATCH: European migrant crisis

French President Emmanuel Macron has not responded directly to the Italian accusations. He has sought to renew EU political momentum with a new Franco-German treaty, signed Tuesday in the border town of Aachen.

“The eurosceptics, nationalists, benefit from the fear in Europe’s people, and they say: ‘The answer on your fears is nationalism,’ and we don’t believe this,” Macron said in a speech to mark the signing of the treaty.

The dispute is a taste of what’s to come as populist forces like Italy’s 5-Star Movement and the League join battle with pro-Europeans.

“This contraposition has been created whereby Italy is the populists and Macron is the Europeanists. And it suits both sides in a sense to have each other as the bogeyman. Of course this is especially important in light of the upcoming European Parliament elections,” Scazzieri said.

The battle lines are being drawn for what is set to be a bitter election campaign – with migration at the heart of the debate over Europe’s future.

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AP Explains: Why Are France and Germany Renewing Their Vows?

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The leaders of France and Germany signed a treaty Tuesday renewing their friendship and pledging greater cooperation between their two nations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron signed the Aachen accord exactly 56 years after their predecessors inked the Elysee Treaty that set the tone for the two countries’ relations after centuries of fierce rivalry and bloody conflict.

In the 16-page accord, Berlin and Paris declare it’s time to raise their bilateral relations “to a new level and prepare for the challenges that both states and Europe face in the 21st century.”

It comes at a time when the Europe Union, including its two founding members Germany and France, are struggling with rising nationalism that threatens to tear the bloc apart.

Here’s a brief guide to the Aachen accord:

Why Aachen?

The location of the signing is heavy with symbolism: Aachen, located on Germany’s western borders with Belgium and the Netherlands, was founded by the Romans, making it part of the first pan-European state.

By the Middle Ages it had become the favored residence of Charlemagne, whose Frankish empire spanned much of what is now France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and the Benelux nations. A thousand years later, many of those countries would come together again to form the predecessor of the present-day European Union.

The city was also repeatedly occupied by France and is known there by the name Aix-la-Chapelle.

Why another treaty?

The Elysee Treaty of 1963 — signed 18 years after the end of World War II by French President Charles de Gaulle and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer — helped forge a partnership that’s become the engine of European integration, though one that hasn’t always run smoothly.

The new treaty was first announced by Macron in September 2017 in a sweeping speech detailing his ambitions to revive Europe — still grappling with the shock of Britain’s referendum to leave the EU, and U.S. President Donald Trump’s persistent attacks on America’s long-time allies across the Atlantic.

In her weekly address Saturday, Merkel said she and Macron believe that “the world has changed dramatically and we want to draw on what Germany and France have already achieved together.”

Macron’s office said the treaty is a “major symbol” aimed at showing the Franco-German motor is still going strong despite the difficult terrain in the EU, with Britain leaving the bloc and nationalism on the rise in several member states.

What’s in the treaty?

While parts of the treaty deal with mundane issues along the two countries’ 450-kilometer (280-mile) border, Merkel said it’s also intended to help tackle global challenges such as climate change and international security.

To this end, France and Germany pledge to increase cooperation in the areas of foreign and defense policy, fighting crime and terrorism, international development and research.

The accord is vague on many of the practical details, but one point that has raised eyebrows elsewhere in Europe is the call for France to support Germany’s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, rejected the idea that such bilateral arrangements between two countries — home to just 30 percent of the EU’s population — could irritate other member states.

“Germany and France also and explicitly want the intensification of their relations in this treaty to service the project of European unification,” he told reporters Monday.

Why are some disappointed?

The careful wording of the treaty reflects different attitudes in Paris and Berlin.

A top French official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with the French presidency’s customary practice, acknowledged that France would prefer to “accelerate” changes in Europe and see the treaty as one more step toward broader reforms.

Merkel, famous for her “step-by-step” approach to politics, is wary of the impact that a perceived surrender of German sovereignty might have on European and state elections later this year.

For decades a bastion of political stability, Germany has seen the rise of a populist, far-right party in recent years that’s hostile to the idea of European integration.

Macron, meanwhile, faces discontent at home in the form of the yellow vest protesters — some of whom have circulated misleading claims about the Aachen treaty on social media.

“Germany is being held up as the old enemy again by some,” said Daniela Schwarzer, director of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

She added that one of the big challenges will be selling the Aachen accord to other European countries.

“If you want to move Europe forward, then (Germany and France) need each other more than ever, but at the same time bilateral ties on their own won’t be enough.”

Any cheers?

The treaty is likely to have the biggest impact on people living in the border regions of France and Germany, where cross-border public transport and support for bilingual schools will be boosted.

Businesses, too, are welcoming the accord.

Eric Schweitzer, head of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, said both countries’ economies could benefit.

Germany is France’s biggest trading partner. And France is Germany’s second biggest export market.

Strengthening the EU, with its common market, is important to German companies at a time of growing protectionist sentiment, said Schweitzer.

He also noted plans to increase cooperation on training and education, which could improve cross-border labor mobility.

About 4,000 German companies employ more than 300,000 people in France, with a turnover of more than 150 billion euros ($170 billion) a year.

 

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Top US Diplomat for Europe Resigns

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The top U.S. diplomat for Europe is resigning after only 16 months on the job in a blow to Trump administration efforts to maintain trans-Atlantic unity.

The State Department says Wess Mitchell will leave his post in mid-February. He’s the assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs.

 

The department’s deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said Mitchell has been a “valued and effective leader” and a “good friend to our allies and partners in Europe.”

 

Mitchell’s departure comes at a time of fractious relations between Washington and European capitals amid disagreements over trade, defense spending and the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

 

Mitchell took up the job in October 2017 under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after 12 years at a think tank focused on Central European issues.

 

 

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Pope Heads to Panama to Celebrate World Youth Day

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Pope Francis will make his first trip to Panama on Wednesday for the World Youth Day festival that is expected to be attended by more than 150,000 young people. For more than two years the Central American country has been getting ready to welcome the pontiff and young people from all over the world.  

During his four full days in Panama, Francis has a full schedule. The main purpose of his visit is to take part in World Youth Day 2019 during which he will also meet with young people who cannot attend the festivities. They are young people at a detention center and young AIDS patients.

Vatican officials said the focus of the pope’s 26th foreign trip will be regional problems, migration, the fight against corruption and violence, and the role of women. In Panama, there are high hopes and much excitement on the part of young people and thousands of officials and volunteers involved in the preparations.

Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela addressed the nation ahead of the papal visit.

He said that “In the coming days we will be witnesses of one of the most important global events that will be celebrated in our beautiful country, World Youth Day and the visit of Pope Francis.” He added that it will be a week during which thousands of pilgrims will visit from the five continents and more than 150 countries. He said it will be “an opportunity to show the world the beauty of our land, the joy and nobility of the heart of our people”.

Panama has a population of about four million people, of whom 88 percent are Catholic.

During his visit, Francis is expected to deliver seven speeches and celebrate two masses. The two main World Youth Day events will be a Way of the Cross held at the Cinta Costera and a mass held at the Metro Park in Panama City.

In a first for a World Youth Day, Pope Francis is scheduled to take a 30-minute helicopter ride on Friday to a youth detention center for 200 inmates in Pacora to hear confessions of several of its inmates, including one convicted of committing a double homicide at just 16 years old.

Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa of Panama said Pope Francis’ meeting with young detainees will be “a very special event” in which “young people deprived of freedom will take part in a penitential liturgy with the Holy Father”.

After the closing mass for World Youth Day, on Saturday, the pope will be visiting the Good Samaritan Home, a center dedicated to helping HIV and AIDS patients “regardless of their sex, religion, sexual orientation, geographical origin” and “who lack the resources to live and cope with their illness.”

Pope Francis will also be dedicating the altar of Panama’s newly renovated 400-year-old cathedral, hold a meeting with bishops from Central America and have lunch with some of the young people attending the World Youth Day gathering.

The pope will be back at the Vatican on Monday morning. He has a number of other foreign trips already scheduled in 2019, including one to the United Arab Emirates in February and another to Morocco in March.

 

 

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10 Dead as Ships Catch Fire Off Crimea 

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At least 10 people are dead after two Tanzanian-flagged ships caught fire Monday in the Kerch Strait off the coast of Russian-annexed Crimea. 

Russian authorities said at least 12 people were rescued, but the rest are missing. 

The ships, the Kandy and the Maestro, had crews that were nationals from India and Turkey. Together, the two ships carried 31 crew members. 

Russia’s transport ministry said a rescue operation was under way to find sailors who jumped overboard to escape the blaze, which ignited when fuel was being transferred from one ship to another.

Ships in ‘neutral water’

The crew members were sailing in “neutral waters” in the Black Sea when the incident occurred, authorities said.

The Kerch Strait is a point of high tension between Russia and Ukraine. 

In November, Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian navy ships in the strait as they tried to pass from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea. Russia continues to hold 24 Ukrainian sailors captured in the incident. They are accused of illegally crossing into Russian territory.

Ukraine has denied the accusation.

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Greek Parliament Begins Debate on Deal with Macedonia

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Greece’s parliament began to debate Monday a deal that would normalize Greek relations with Macedonia, a day after violent protests against the accord broke out in Athens.

Parliamentary officials have tentatively scheduled a vote for Thursday on the deal, which calls for Macedonia to change its name and for Greece to drop its objections to the Balkan country joining NATO and the European Union.

The deal was debated Monday in the Greek parliament’s committee on defense and foreign policy, while the house’s plenary session will take up debate Wednesday.

Greeks have been divided over the accord, in which Macedonia will change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. Greece has long protested the name Macedonia, adopted by its northern neighbor after it split from Yugoslavia. Some Greeks say the new name still represents an attempt to appropriate Greek identity and cultural heritage, because Macedonia is also the name of Greece’s northern province made famous by Alexander the Great’s conquests.

Protests in Athens against the agreement turned violent Sunday, with demonstrators throwing rocks, firebombs and other items at police, who responded with numerous volleys of tear gas. At least 25 officers and dozens of people were injured in the clashes, officials said.

A nationwide poll in Greece this month found that 70 percent of respondents oppose the deal, AP reported.

The agreement has caused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to lose his four-year coalition in parliament after his nationalist allies defected to protest the deal. Following the upheaval, Tsipras narrowly won a confidence vote in parliament Wednesday.

The Greek prime minister and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, brokered the compromise in June to end the 27-year name dispute between the two neighbors.

Last week, Macedonia’s parliament approved a constitutional revision to change the country’s name. The agreement has also caused protests in Macedonia, with critics there saying the government gave up too much in the deal.

Tsipras has argued the Macedonia deal will bolster stability in Europe’s Balkan region. EU countries have also strongly backed the deal.

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Russia: 2 Ships Catch Fire in Black Sea, 10 Sailors Dead

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Two Tanzanian-flagged commercial vessels caught fire in the Black Sea, leaving at least 10 sailors dead, Russian officials said Monday. Seven sailors were missing.

The Federal Agency for the Sea and River Transport said the fire erupted while fuel was being pumped from one tanker to another. The blaze also spread from one ship to the other, prompting the crews to jump overboard, according to Russian news agencies.

The news agencies quoted the federal maritime agency as saying the two vessels had 31 crew members combined who are citizens of Turkey and India.

Salvage teams have rescued 14 crew members and recovered 10 bodies, the maritime agency said, adding that a search for the seven missing sailors is underway.

The Russian navy has joined the rescue operation, deploying two of its ships.

The fire erupted while the two vessels, the Maestro and the Candy, were anchored near the Kerch Strait linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

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Erdogan: Turkey Ready to Take Over Security in Syria’s Manbij

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Turkey is ready to take over security in the Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Manbij, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday.

Erdogan’s office says the president spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone Sunday, days after an Islamic State attack in the city killed 19 people, including three U.S. service members and an American military contractor.

Erdogan told Trump the attack was a “provocation” aimed at affecting his decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria.

The White House did not specifically mention Erdogan’s comments about Manbij other than saying the two presidents “agreed to continue to pursue a negotiated solution for northeast Syria that achieves our respective security concerns.”

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and its Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), control Manbij.

Turkey says the YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting a long separatist war for more Kurdish autonomy inside Turkey.

Turkey considers both the YPG and PKK terrorist groups. The Kurdish militia fears Turkey will carry out a military assault on it as soon as the U.S. pulls out.

Trump has proposed a safe zone in the region but has yet to provide any details.

Turkey does not want any Kurdish-controlled territory on its border and has said any safe zone must be cleared of Kurds.

White House bureau chief Steve Herman contributed to this report.

 

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Pope Rolls Out Prayer App for Youth

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Pope Francis introduced a digital application that enables the faithful to pray with him, swiping a tablet on Sunday, January 20, to showcase the “click to pray” app ahead of the World Youth Day 2019, which takes place in Panama January 22-27. The Vatican has launched the new multiplatform service on its website clicktopray.org that it says will enable the faithful to “accompany the pope in a mission of compassion for the world.” VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports.

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Car Bomb Blast in Northern Ireland; No Injuries Reported

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Northern Ireland police and politicians have condemned a “reckless” car bombing outside a courthouse in the city of Londonderry.

The device was placed inside a hijacked delivery vehicle and exploded Saturday night as police, who had received a warning, were evacuating the area. There were no reports of injuries.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland posted a photograph of a vehicle in flames and urged the public to stay away.

Police and army bomb-disposal experts remained at the scene on Sunday.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton called the attack “incredibly reckless.”

“The people responsible for this attack have shown no regard for the community or local businesses,” he said. “They care little about the damage to the area and the disruption they have caused.”

More than 3,700 people died during decades of violence before Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord. Most militants have renounced violence, but some Irish Republican Army dissidents carry out occasional bombings and shootings.

Uncertainty about the future of the Irish border after Brexit is adding to tensions in Northern Ireland.

John Boyle, who is mayor of the city also known as Derry, said violence “is the past and it has to stay in the past.”

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Survivors: Up to 117 Missing From Sunken Boat Off Libya 

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Three survivors of the sinking of a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya say up to 117 other migrants were aboard at the time, a U.N. migration official said Saturday. 

It appeared to be the latest tragedy on the dangerous central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Europe. 

Flavio Di Giacomo of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told Italian state TV that “unfortunately about 120” migrants were reported by survivors to have been on the overloaded smugglers’ dinghy when it was launched from Libyan shores on Thursday evening. 

“After a few hours, it began sinking and people began drowning,” Di Giacomo said. 

Among the missing were 10 women and two children, including a 2-month-old baby, he said. Survivors indicated their fellow migrants came from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Sudan, Di Giacomo said. 

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who has urged that the government show more compassion for migrants, expressed his “deep sorrow for the tragedy that has taken place in the Mediterranean.” 

Premier Giuseppe Conte told reporters he was “shocked” at the reports of the sinking and vowed that Italy would continue to combat human traffickers. 

Italy’s populist government has banned private rescue boats from bringing migrants to Italian shores. Together with Malta, Italy has also launched probes of the rescue groups themselves, claiming their operations might facilitate trafficking. 

Friday rescue

The three survivors of the sinking were plucked to safety by an Italian navy helicopter on Friday afternoon, the navy said.  

The Italian navy said when its patrol plane spotted the sinking dinghy it had about 20 persons aboard. The plane’s crew launched two life rafts near the dinghy, which inflated, and a navy destroyer 100 nautical miles (200 kilometers) away sent a helicopter to the scene.  

That helicopter rescued the survivors, two from a life raft and one from the water, the navy said, adding that all had hypothermia. 

They were flown to Lampedusa, an Italian island near Sicily, and treated in a hospital, Di Giacomo said.   

Many migrants cannot afford to pay for life vests, an extra cost when boarding a smuggler’s boat in Libya. The survivors said the migrants aboard the dinghy didn’t have any. 

It wasn’t immediately clear exactly how many migrants might have died before the navy plane spotted the sinking dinghy. 

The Italian Coast Guard says Libya asked a nearby cargo ship to search for survivors but the ship reported it found no one. 

Libyan navy spokesman Ayoub Gassim said one of its boats was sent Friday to the scene but it “had a mechanical issue and we had to call it back.” The official said 50 migrants were believed to have been aboard the dinghy when it set sail. 

According to the IOM, at least 2,297 people died at sea or went missing trying to reach Europe in 2018. In all, 116,959 migrants reached Europe by sea routes last year, it says. 

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said Saturday it was “appalled” at the news of the latest migrant deaths in the Mediterranean. In a statement from its Geneva headquarters, it said in addition to those missing off Libya, 53 people died in recent days in the western Mediterranean, where one survivor was rescued by a fishing boat after being stranded for more than 24 hours at sea.  

Can’t be ignored

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe’s doorstep,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. 

Italy has trained and equipped the Libyan coast guard so it can intercept and rescue more migrant boats closer to their shores. But U.N. refugee officials and rights advocates say the migrants rescued by the Libyans are returned to dangerous, overcrowded detention facilities, where detainees face insufficient rations, rape, beatings and torture. 

Libyan navy official Ayoub Gassim said Saturday that the Libyan navy had stopped two smuggling boats, one with 67 migrants aboard and the other with 20.  

In a separate operation, the German rescue group Sea-Watch said it rescued 47 people from a rubber boat off the coast of Libya. 

After Italy’s populist government took power in June 2018, the number of migrants reaching Italy after rescue at sea dropped off sharply, as anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to let humanitarian rescue vessels enter Italian ports.

Salvini says Italy has received hundreds of thousands of migrants rescued from Libyan-based smugglers in unseaworthy boats in the last few years and demands that other European Union countries do their part. 

After the latest sea tragedy, Salvini said that when humanitarian rescue boats patrol off Libya, “the smugglers resume their dirty trafficking [and] people start dying again.”