5.45pm Updated with Tourism Minister comments
The Nationalist Party said today it expected the government to explain whether it was true that Alitalia would not make any investment in order to acquire almost half the shares in Air Malta.
The party in a statement issued through shadow minister Claudio Grech, was referring to a statement by the president of the Italian airline carried in Italian news agency Ansa.
Luca Cordero di Montezemolo was quoted as saying that if the deal went ahead, it would be a zero-risk operation for Alitalia. It would not cost a euro, and it would open up interesting connections with Sicily.
Mr Grech said Air Malta's value was well above zero, and comments such as this by a potential shareholder were not a good augury.
'Be responsible', Tourism Minister tells PN
Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis this afternoon insisted discussions were at a very early stage, and noted that a confidentiality agreement remained in place until 25 May.
He said that discussions would not begin until June or July at the earliest, as a due diligence process had to be carried out first.
The minister called on the opposition to remain positive.
"Though the PN was a protagonist in leading Air Malta to the brink of bankruptcy, now it has the chance to make amends and partner the government in turning the national airline around," he said.
Earlier, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) said the president's remark was worrying, and it prejudiced the value of the Memorandum of Understanding recently signed with the Maltese Government.
It asked how the government had chosen Alitalia as the preferred potential strategic partner for AirMalta over other airlines or solutions.
"Any mistakes on the matter of Air Malta will definitely have serious and irreparable consequences on the economy. Allegedly giving away Airmalta through a strategic alliance to a foreign company which itself is facing financial challenges for "zero euro" as confirmed yesterday by the Alitalia president raises serious doubts on the viability of the deal," the association said.
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