Giulio Terzi had told La Repubblica daily in Rome that the diplomatic row with India over the marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen was necessary to make sure the men did not face the death penalty. He had also said 'the situation was normalising'.
Without buying time for talks by reneging on a pledge to return the two marines after a permission to vote in Italy's February elections, the minister said: "We would not have been able to negotiate the current conditions, which envisage conditions of everyday living and the guarantee that the death penalty will not applied."
But the Italian government's surprise u-turn had been criticised by former premier Silvio Berlusconi's senate whip Maurizio Gasparri, who called it "pitiful and inept". The mayor of Bari, one of the marines' hometowns, called it "indescribable".
The Italian government, which had given an undertaking before the court that the marines will be sent back, had on March 11 sent a note verbale to the Indian government informing it that the two will not be sent back.
On January 18, the apex court had turned down the Italian government's plea that the Indian courts had no jurisdiction in the case and had held that the two marines should be tried by a special court constituted by the government.
The two marines were on board an Italian vessel 'Enrica Lexie' when they allegedly shot dead two fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, last year.