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Italy will let US armed drones fly from Sicilian base

Italy has agreed to allow armed US drones to carry out operations against Isis targets in Libya from an air base in Sicily.

Italy will let US armed drones fly from Sicilian base
A US MQ-9 Reaper drone in flight. Photo:Issac Brekken/AFP

The drones are operating out of the US Navy Air Station, Sigonella, near Mount Etna – which was used regularly by Nato forces during the Libyan civil war in 2011.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told Italian radio station RTL102.5 that each authorization would be issued “on a case by case basis.”

Renzi said that only missions with a 'defensive' scope – those aimed at protecting US special forces on the ground, would be allowed.

“If there is evidence that terrorists are preparing for attack Italy will do its part like everybody else,” he added.

US military leaders are thought to be pushing for the Italian government to allow armed drones to run offensive operations too, but Italian officials are reluctant due to a lack of popular support for direct military intervention and concerns over frequent incidents involving friendly fire.

Last October, 19 people were killed in a drone attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan.

“It's not a prelude to military intervention,” Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told La Repubblica.

In the past, Gentiloni has expressed concern that the estimated 6,000-strong Isis fighters in Libya could easily use the country as a springboard to launch an attack against Italy.

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TOURISM

What does the US’s new risk classification for Italy mean for American travellers?

The US State Department has changed its advice on travel to Italy as well as dozens of other countries with improving Covid infection rates. What does this mean for Americans who want to come to Italy?

What does the US's new risk classification for Italy mean for American travellers?
Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

The US has downgraded Italy from its “do not travel” list (level 4) to “reconsider travel” (level 3). 

The decision by the US State Department and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means that Ital yis no longer in the highest risk classification for travel. 

However, according to the State Department’s advice for level 3 “reconsider travel”, “US nationals should avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security”. 

“Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to Italy. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to Italy,” reads the CDC website.

However, Italy’s entry rules for Americans remain unchanged since May 16th.

As the US remains on Italy’s travel ‘D list’, entry is allowed for any reason but all arrivals from the US are subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine period unless on a special Covid-tested flight.

People arriving on other flights, including those who must travel for essential reasons, must provide negative test results as well as facing the quarantine requirement on arrival, under rules which are currently set to stay in force until at least July 30th. (However, it’s possible that they may be dropped earlier – or extended beyond that date.)

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There is currently no exemption to the Italian travel restrictions for people who have been vaccinated.

However, Italy’s government said on Wednesday that its long-awaited travel ‘green pass’ or health certificate would be ready for use in the coming days.

The pass will be available to anyone who has either been vaccinated, has tested negative for coronavirus within the past 48 hours, or has recently contracted and recovered from Covid-19.

Authorities did not clarify whether the pass would be made available to non-EU citizens immediately. Find more details here.

Other countries that are no longer classified as “do not travel” by the US are France, Spain, Japan, Greece, Switzerland, Canada and Mexico. You can find out other countries’ classifications here

The CDC said it had also updated the criteria it uses to determine these risk levels “to better differentiate countries with severe outbreak situations from countries with sustained, but controlled, Covid-19 spread”.

The US State Department uses the CDC’s recommendations to set its own travel advice but also considers other factors such as Covid restrictions and terrorism in other countries.

All returning US citizens require a negative Covid-19 test result before boarding their plane back, the CDC added.

Stay up to date with Italy’s travel rules by following The Local’s travel section and checking the Italian Health Ministry’s website (in English).

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