BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin will disburse aid to migrant charity groups operating in the Mediterranean imminently, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said on Thursday, defending the work of sea rescuers as vital amid a spat with Rome on the issue.
"We talked about this today because of the different views with regard to funding - and in three cases, the payment of the funds is imminent," Baerbock said at a press conference with her Italian counterpart, Antonio Tajani, in Berlin.
Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni wrote to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz telling him she learned with "astonishment" of the German initiative to finance the migrant charity groups.
Baerbock said that her government was lobbying at the European Union level for a new European sea rescue mission.
"As long as this doesn't exist, civilian sea rescuers in the Mediterranean are performing life-saving tasks," she said.
Tajani also weighed in on the issue, saying that he had reminded his German counterpart of Meloni's letter.
"Nobody is waging a war against NGOs, we only say that they cannot ... act as a sort of magnet to attract irregular migrants," Tajani said.
Italy is pursuing a hard line against illegal immigration. The country has seen a surge in migrant arrivals this year with some 133,000 coming ashore so far against around 69,800 in the same period in 2022.
(Reporting by Friederike Heine and Francesca Piscioneri, editing by Alvise Armellini)