An explosive and unsubstantiated claim that Paris gave the order to shoot down an Italian passenger plane to kill Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 1980 could spark a diplomatic row between Italy and France.
In an interview with the Roman daily La Repubblica published on Saturday, former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato claimed that the French Air Force accidentally fired a missile that shot down Itavia Flight 870 en route from Bologna to Palermo. The crash over the Mediterranean killed all 81 people on board and sparked intense speculation in Italy about the cause.
“A plan was hatched to hit the plane in which Gaddafi was flying,” Amato claimed in the interview, suggesting that the strongman ruler had been tipped off by Amato’s own former rival, former Prime Minister Bettino Craxi. Amato called on French President Emmanuel Macron to respond to the claim, saying: “It would be an opportunity for the Élysée to wash away the shame that weighs on Paris.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni responded to Amato’s comments, saying her predecessor’s claims “deserve attention” but that he should provide all the substantive evidence he has in addition to the “personal conclusions.” Amato acknowledged that he had no hard evidence to support the claims.
However, the claims could put pressure on Franco-Italian relations as the two countries work to improve their diplomatic ties following a spat this summer when Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani responded to French Interior Minister Gérald by an official Visit to Paris canceled Darmanin’s criticism of Rome’s migration policy.
On Saturday, Libya publicly rejected the candidate the EU had put forward to lead its diplomatic mission, and expectations grew that it would choose an envoy from France instead. The decision comes in the context of Meloni’s efforts to build bridges with North African nations, particularly the former Italian colony of Libya.