Last updated at 9.50pm with Foreign Ministry statement.
Malta’s Ambassador to Finland has resigned after a controversial Facebook post in which he compared German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler.
Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo confirmed to Times of Malta that ambassador Michael Zammit Tabona had stepped down.
He said that an apology would be sent to the German embassy for the “insensitive” post.
In the Facebook post, that has since been deleted, Zammit Tabona wrote: “75 years ago we stopped Hitler. Who will stop Angela Merkel? She has fulfilled Hitler’s dream! To control Europe.” The post was uploaded on Friday, the day Europe celebrated the 75th anniversary of the end of the second world war.
Contacted about the matter on Sunday, Bartolo said he had instructed the ambassador to remove the comment “as soon as I was alerted to it”.
He said he would also be issuing a reminder to diplomats to appropriate and responsible use of social media.
In a statement later in the evening, the Foreign Ministry said that while accepting the ambassador's resignation with immediate effect, Bartolo stressed that Zammit Tabona’s comments on German Chancellor Angela Merkel were not representative of the friendship and mutual respect between Malta and Germany.
"In this regard, Minister Bartolo reiterates the Maltese Government’s commitment to deepen the strong and longstanding bilateral relations between the two countries," the ministry said.
Meanwhile, sources in the foreign affairs ministry said the post was "embarrassing for Malta" and would be frowned upon in diplomatic circles.
Zammit Tabona was appointed non-resident ambassador to Finland in 2014.
Conduct unbecoming - PN
Opposition leader Adrian Delia said Mr Zammit Tabona's Facebook post was unbecoming of an ambassador. He pointed out that the German chancellor had consistently backed Malta on various issues. She was a source of stability in Europe, and a champion of democracy who could never be compared to the ideas of the extreme right.
Dr Delia observed that Zammit Tabona was not a career diplomat but was handpicked by the Labour government.
He insisted that Malta should apologise to Germany as soon as possible.
Chamber welcomes ambassador’s resignation
The Chamber of Commerce in a statement said comments such as those by Mr Zammit Tabona harmed the country's reputation and it therefore welcomed his resignation.
"All persons holding public office and diplomats no less, should take extra care when expressing themselves, as the country's reputation is no one's to put in compromising situations," the chamber said.
"Good governance demands high ethical, professional and diplomatic standards from our ambassadors The country ought to have representatives of the highest credibility that attract strong trust levels in the interest of Malta."