"We respect and I do respect Supreme Court of India. We are confident that the case will be solved according to National laws, International justice," Italian Defence Minister, Giampaolo Di Paolo, who arrived here last night to meet the two Italian marines-- Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone, told reporters in Kochi.
Italy had summoned the Indian Ambassador in Rome a couple of days ago to insist that the apex court issue a decision soon on its two marines.
The minister, who was flanked by the two marines dressed in suits, said, "I came here to meet the two Italian marines. They are in active duty. It is my responsibility to come here. They are still in a mission. They are supporting a mission," the minister said.
Mr Di Paolo, who arrived by a chartered aircraft from Herat, a province in Afghanistan, said, "I came here from Afghanistan where I met other (Italian) soldiers. In the same way, I came here to say hello (to the marines)."
Asked if he was confident that the marines would be able to visit Italy for Christmas, Di Paolo said, "Nobody more than India understands the value of celebrating Christmas. For us Christmas is the festivity. So you understand, how much we want them to go back, to be with their families and parents. I am confident that Indian people will understand," he said.
The marines have moved a petition in the Kerala High Court seeking relaxation of their bail conditions to enable them to visit their families. The plea is to come up on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court had reserved its verdict on the Italian government's plea challenging the jurisdiction of Indian courts to try the marines.
The two marines on board the Italian ship 'Enrica Lexie', had allegedly shot dead Jelastine and Ajesh Binki off Alapuzha coast on February 15. They were detained on February 19 and were sent to Central Prison in Thiruvananthpuram. Later on, they were granted bail in June but on the condition that they must remain on Indian territory.
Italy has been pressing India for their early release of the marines while New Delhi has been maintaining that since the case was pending in the courts, the government cannot do much.
There are 3000 Italian military personnel in Herat and about 300 would be going back to Italy for Christmas, sources said.
The minister will be leave for Italy today and is unlikely to meet any Indian or state government ministers or officials. "His visit is to show the importance being given by Italy to the two marines," sources said.
Italian Ambassador to India Giacomo Sanfelice was among those accompanying the minister.