Political appointee Joseph Cuschieri’s posting as ambassador to Italy has been terminated, a Foreign Ministry spokesman has confirmed.

Cuschieri muscled in on the Rome posting after his predecessor Vanessa Frazier was appointed as Malta’s permanent representative to the UN in January.

One source familiar with the circumstances surrounding Cuschieri’s posting said that contrary to normal diplomatic protocols, he had travelled to Rome without his appointment even having been formalised. Contacted by Times of Malta, a ministry spokesman confirmed Cuschieri had been recalled but declined to say why. 

Cuschieri, he said, will be providing services to the minister “as and where required of him in due course”.

Cuschieri declined to comment when contacted. He will be replaced by former Brigadier Carmel Vassallo, who is seen as a better fit for the prominent posting, particularly given the renewed diplomatic bickering between Malta and Italy over migrant arrivals.

“Having a former military man in Rome makes sense, and the fact that he studied in Italy is an added bonus. Especially with the added Italian media interest [in Malta], a mastery of Italian is critical,” a diplomatic source said.

The ministry spokesman later denied that Cuschieri had breached any protocols, insisting he always acted upon official instructions. 

"Mr Cuschieri started his posting as Ambassador-Designate to Italy after receiving the agrement from the Italian Government and upon official instruction from the Ministry. It is up to the Government to decide on when to appoint or change an Ambassador, depending on its exigencies."

In 2008, Cuschieri gave up his seat in parliament so former prime minister Joseph Muscat could become an MP. He was later given a job with the Labour Party and then served as ambassador to Greece. 

News of Cuschieri’s Rome recall comes hot on the heels of Michael Zammit Tabona’s resignation as Ambassador to Finland.

Zammit Tabona, a businessman who supports the Labour Party, quit after a controversial Facebook post drawing a comparison between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hitler.

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