Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed her Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz for the first time since his return to government at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin on Monday.

The pair held a joint press conference where several topics ranging from the Libyan weapon embargo, the Sophia rescue mission and Brexit were addressed.

When asked about the two country's position regarding the handling of migrants trying to reach Europe through the Mediterranean sea, Merkel stated: "Germany could imagine supporting reinvestment in Operation Sophia, the topic of the weapons embargo against Libya is also one of the points which is important for other reasons, but the negotiations in Brussels are still ongoing

"There are a lot of private ships, which are doing sea rescues and it would be better if there were a state run mission again," added Merkel.

Kurz criticised rescue operations in the Mediterranean saying that they "didn't bring the wished results, they didn't stop the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, but they made starting the journey more attractive in many cases."

The EU's Operation Sofia, which aims to combat the people smuggling in the Mediterranean, currently has no ships of its own after a compromise struck under pressure from the Italian government in March 2019, by which the operation is limited to aircraft alone.

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Associated Press 11 May 2020 11:44 CEST

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