The diplomatic row between Italy and India involving two Italian marines charged with murdering two Indian fishermen has now claimed its first high-profile resignation – Italy’s foreign minister, Giulio Terzi.
"My reservations about sending the marines back to India were not listened to," Terzi told the Italian parliament.
"I can no longer be part of this government. I am resigning because I have maintained for 40 years and I maintain more forcefully today that the honor of the country, its armed forces and the Italian diplomacy must be safeguarded. I am resigning because I support the two marines and their families."
While on a naval patrol boat last year, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre are accused of shooting the two fishermen off India's southwestern coast, thinking they were pirates.
After nearly a year of detention in India, the two marines were allowed to temporarily return to Italy last month to vote in general elections.
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After the two men returned to Italian soil, the country's foreign ministry said they should stay in their homeland, pointing out that India didn't have jurisdiction in the case since the alleged killings took place in international waters.
That decision sparked outrage from the Indian government, which had demanded the men be handed over to its authorities to face murder charges.
Last week, after some back and forth volleys between Rome and New Delhi, the marines were finally returned to India, triggering outrage in Italian quarters.
It's unclear if other senior officials of Mario Monti’s caretaker government will now follow Terzi out the door; however, one high-level government figure who isn't expected to quit is Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola.
Di Paola has said he doesn't want to "abandon a ship in difficulty."
"I have always acted for the good of the marines and Italy,” he told Parliament in the wake of Terzi’s abrupt resignation, according to BBC. “If I haven't managed that, I ask forgiveness from everyone, and first of all from both of them. It was me who told them about the decision to return them to India, I looked them in the eyes and told them."
The Italian marines will likely face an uncertain fate in India. There have been reports that Italian authorities agreed to send the two men back to India only after New Delhi gave assurances the death penalty wouldn't be imposed in case of conviction.
Although it is rarely used, India still has capital punishment on its books. Italy abolished the death penalty in 1948.
Salman Khurshid, India’s external affairs minister, has denied any deal was made to bring the marines back for trial.