State Summons Italian Ambassador Over Press Report
The Government yesterday summoned Italian Ambassador to Zambia, Giovanni Ceruti for undiplomatic conduct over a newspaper report attributed to him that the Government should not kill Zambian Airways.
Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Tens Kapoma confirmed in an interview in Lusaka that he had summoned Dr Ceruti to his office over the statement, which was published in Monday’s edition of The Post newspaper.
In its Monday edition, The Post carried the story headlined, “Government has responsibility to keep Zambian Airways – envoy Ceruti”, quoting Dr Ceruti as having implored the Government not to “kill” Zambian Airways through unnecessary measures.
“The issue of the airline is a domestic issue which has assumed political dimensions and it would be undiplomatic for the ambassador to comment on it. He, however, profusely denied having said so and he has written to the paper to that effect,” Mr Kapoma said.
Mr Kapoma said although Dr Ceruti denied having made such comments attributed to him, he still apologised to the Government for having talked about the subject with a reporter.
He said that the comments attributed to the ambassador were undiplomatic, hence his decision to summon him.
When contacted for a comment Dr Ceruti confirmed that he had written to The Post on the matter, adding that he did not say what the paper reported.
“First of all, I would like to underline that when he (the reporter) asked me about the problem of Zambian Airways, immediately I answered that this is not a problem of my competence and that in any case it was not in my style to say what the Zambian Government must do or not do.
“Because of his insistence I said I could just speak of the general problem existing all over the world and first of all also in my country about the great difficulties airlines face at the moment.
“Always referring first of all to Italy, where you know the problem of Alitalia is a sensitive subject at this moment, I commented that there are two different schools of thought,” a copy of Dr Ceruti’s letter to The Post reads.
Dr Ceruti said the first school of thought was that the State must leave it up to the market to decide and the second one was that the Government could support the airline, in some ways, but still abiding by the rules of the market.
“But of course it is up to any government to make its own decisions,” Dr Ceruti said.
Zambian Airways has been going through turbulent times leading to its owing the National Airports Corporation Limited (NACL) US$1.6 million.
Times of Zambia