Conte cancels meeting with Muscat

Giuseppe Conte (right) with Joseph Muscat. Photo credit: The Malta Independent

 ROME – The Italian Prime Minister has apparently cancelled a lunch meeting with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that was due to be held Friday in Rome, The Malta Independent reported.

 Sources confirmed to The Malta Independent that Muscat’s scheduled meeting with Prime Minster Giuseppe Conte was cancelled, although no reasons have been offered.

 The cancellation comes as investigations continue into the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, a case which has shaken Malta’s establishment.

 Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, along with cabinet minister Konrad Mizzi, resigned as the investigation – along with public demonstrations – unfolded.  Muscat himself will be stepping down in January.

 Muscat is expected to visit Rome on Friday, where he will be attending the Mediterranean Dialogues, meetings for discussion on topics of shared interest in the Mediterranean, in Rome.

 Muscat is also scheduled to meet Pope Francis on Saturday.  On Wednesday, a group of 22 academics asked the pontiff not to meet the prime minister, whose government has been badly shaken by the ongoing Caruana Galizia case.

 It is “totally unwise, and pastorally undesirable, to involve the Holy Father in a propaganda exercise in an attempt to postpone an inevitable outcome,” said the letter, quoted in The Times of Malta.

 Muscat's meeting with Francis is still going ahead, but will not be an official visit, Vatican sources told The Malta Independent.  Muscat will be accompanied by his wife and two children for a private audience, but will not be accompanied by the foreign minister - whose presence would be customary for a state visit, The Malta Independent said.