Brenner Pass has long been a hotspot for migrants crossing the border
The Austrian Chancellor has made light of a diplomatic row brewing over border control between Italy and Austria, insisting that cooperation with Italy is still "really good".
He described the spat as a "misunderstanding" and assured Rome that his army would not be sending tanks to the Brenner Pass – a crucial frontier crossing between the two countries.
The Austrian defence minister, Hans Peter Doskozil, had said controls would be imposed "very soon", prompting a furious response from Italy on Tuesday.
An official from his ministry also said four armoured vehicles and 750 troops were ready to be deployed if necessary.
Hans Peter Doskozil had warned of controls ‘very soon’. Pic: file
Austria and Italy are both part of the EU’s border-free Schengen zone and any move to stop migrants entering Austria from Italy would be a direct violation of the system.
However, the Austrian Chancellor, Christian Kern, has tried to play down the tensions.
"One must clear up misunderstandings like the ones that have evidently arisen with Italy," he said.
"We are not deploying tanks at Brenner and I can emphasise again that cooperation with Italy is really good."
He also said there was "no indication" Italy was not in control of the situation.
Austria has previously said it will introduce border controls at Brenner if migrant numbers continue to rise.
Christian Kern has tried to reassure Austria’s neighbour
At the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 Austria took in more than 1% of its population in asylum seekers, mainly through Turkey, Greece and the Balkans.
Last week, Rome said it was considering blocking boats carrying migrants from landing at its ports after nearly 11,000 refugees – many from north Africa – arrived on its southern shores in five days.
Immigration is an important issue for both Austria and Italy, which both face a general elections within the next year.
African migrants currently in Libya who qualify as refugees will be legally resettled to the European Union, the European Commission said this week.