Rome, Jan 20: Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni has said the government hoped the two Italian marines facing murder trial in India over the killing of two fisherman could stay in Italy during international arbitration of the case.
"Arbitration takes as long as it takes. We hope that during this period, the two marines can stay in Italy," Gentiloni said on Wednesday.
"The request is that the marines can remain in Italy for the arbitration period," he added.
Gentiloni's remarks came after a court in the Hague said the arbitration verdict in the case of Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone would not come before August 2018.
Italy must file a written statement of its version of events by September 16 this year and India must do the same by March 31, 2017, the Hague court said.
The Hague tribunal is due in late March give an initial response to the request to allow Salvatore Girone to return to Italy from India until the arbitration concludes, Gentiloni said.
India's Supreme Court allowed Latorre to return home for medical treatment after he suffered a stroke in August.
It ruled last week that he could stay until April 30, prompting a statement from the Italian foreign ministry claiming the court did not have jurisdiction over the marine.
The shooting dead in February 2012 of two unarmed fisherman by Latorre and Girone off Kerala as they guarded an Italian oil tanker sparked a diplomatic row. The case has strained relations between the two countries.
A long series of delays and fears that the marines could be executed if convicted of murder prompted Italy to take the case to international arbitration in June last year.
In August, the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled that India had no jurisdiction in the case and referred it to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
India wants to try Latorre and Girone for murder, while Italy has argued from the outset that incident took place in international waters during an anti-piracy mission.
The Italian case is that India does not have jurisdiction in the case.
Meanwhile, Girone has not been allowed to leave India and is staying at the Italian embassy in New Delhi.