The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

Neutrality does not mean closing our eyes and ears, Muscat says on blocking Russian planes

Albert Galea Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 17:59 Last update: about 5 months ago

Neutrality does not mean closing our eyes and ears to what is happening around us, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said when asked about why Malta blocked Russian aircraft from entering Malta's airspace.

Last week Malta denied two Russian aircraft access to the country's airspace after it became apparent that they were flying supplies to Venezuela. Russia's stance on Venezuela differs to that of Malta; Russia still supports the regime of Nicolas Maduro while Malta, along with the rest of the EU and the US, supports the claim of opposition leader Juan Guadio.

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Muscat said that Malta had taken the best decision that they could have based on the information that the country had, noting that they had received information of a flight going from Syria to Venezuela.

Muscat said that a request for a Russian warship seemingly travelling along the same trajectory to dock in Malta was eventually also withdrawn.

The Russian government was not best pleased with the government's decision, but this same decision was meanwhile praised by the USA.

This not the first time that the government have been at loggerheads with Russia over access to Maltese ports and airspace; back in 2016, then Foreign Minister George Vella had said that Russian warships would not be allowed to be refuel in Malta's ports.

'No government interference' in Air Malta - Muscat

Asked about the government's involvement in Air Malta, Muscat said that there was no government interference in the company's accounts and that all commercial dealings were all 'above board'.

He said that Air Malta's accounts were audited by an international firm of repute and that there was no leeway to allow for any "accounting games".

A month ago Air Malta announced that they had turned a €10.8 million deficit into a €1.2 million surplus, but controversy surrounded the airline's payments with fuel company Enemed.  The Malta Independent on Sunday reported that the airline only paid its €15 million fuel bill after its AGM and after it had drafted its annual accounts.

 


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