Italy's foreign minister has resigned over his government's decision to send two marines back to India to face trial over the deaths of two fishermen.
Giulio Terzi announced the decision in parliament on Tuesday, saying he was doing so in solidarity with the marines and because his decision to keep them in Italy had been overruled.
"I am resigning because for 40 years I have maintained, and still maintain, that the reputation of the country, the armed forces and Italian diplomacy, should be safeguarded," Terzi said.
"I am also standing down in solidarity with our two marines and their families."
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, accused of shooting dead two fishermen off the coast of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala in February last year, were sent back to New Delhi on Friday after Rome received written assurances from India that their rights would be respected.
The two men, who were serving as security guards on an Italian oil tanker off the Indian port of Kochi last year, claim they mistook the fishermen for pirates.
Following a lengthy dispute over the case, India's Supreme Court granted them bail to fly home to vote in Italy's general election last month - on condition they were sent back to New Delhi within a month.
Italy agreed and its ambassador to India signed an affidavit taking personal responsibility to return them, which led to fury when Rome announced on March 11 that it was reneging on its commitment.
As the diplomatic crisis escalated, Indian authorities forbade the ambassador from leaving the country and airports were put on alert.
Rome's unexpected decision to return Latorre and Girone sparked anger in Italy, particularly because the men and their families had been previously told they would not be sent back.
Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdelhamid, reporting from Rome, said: "A lot of people felt that the national pride was being compromised, and that the government had not done enough to protect two men who were actually working for the protection of this country and security of Italian people."
"I have always acted for the good of the marines and Italy. If I haven't managed that, I ask forgiveness from everyone, and first of all from both of them," Italy's Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola told parliament.
"It was me who told them about the decision to return them to India, I looked them in the eyes and told them," he said.
Di Paolo said he was not resigning because he had promised the marines he would not abandon them.
Source: Al Jazeera And Agencies