Italy, India Seek To Resolve Fishermen Killing Row

The foreign ministers of India and Italy sought Tuesday to defuse an emotional diplomatic row over the fate of two Italian soldiers facing murder charges for the killing of two Indian fishermen.

The foreign ministers of India and Italy sought Tuesday to defuse an emotional diplomatic row over the fate of two Italian soldiers facing murder charges for the killing of two Indian fishermen.

"There is a strong public opinion on both sides. We have agreed that we need to clear the air," Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters following talks in New Delhi with his Italian counterpart, Giulio Terzi.

"We have the maturity to address this challenge together," Krishna said.

The two soldiers were remanded in custody last week by a court in the southern state of Kerala on charges of shooting dead the two fishermen who were mistaken for pirates trying to attack an oil tanker off the Kerala coast.

The soldiers had been deployed on the Italian-flagged tanker as security guards.

The ensuing diplomatic battle has focused on the issue of jurisdiction, with Italy arguing that the shootings occurred in international waters and India insisting that the soldiers be dealt with according to Indian law.

Terzi said he had pushed his government's position "very frankly" during his talks with Krishna and acknowledged there was "a difference of opinion which is not resolved" concerning the jurisdiction issue.

"Nevertheless, we continue to pursue this issue in a very friendly spirit of understanding and cooperation," he said, expressing Italy's official condolences over the death of the fishermen.

While voicing regret, Italy has argued that the Indian fishing crew behaved aggressively and were repeatedly warned before shots were fired.

"The incident was caused due to the threat of piracy," Terzi said.

Last week Italy filed a petition in the Kerala state high court seeking instant dismissal of the murder case against the two men -- Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone.

Ships are increasingly employing armed guards for protection off the coast of Somalia and across the Indian Ocean as vessels of all sizes have been seized by pirates who often secure huge ransoms for crews' safe release.