A flotilla of American aircraft has begun descending in Malta ahead of alleged talks over a military agreement which would grant the US jurisdictional powers in the country.
Sources said that one plane arrived sometime last night while the rest, which allegedly includes a special operations aircraft, will arrive tomorrow.
A photo sent to Lovin Malta shows the plane, a Boeing 737, landing at the airport last night.
The arrival comes after reports in the Times of Malta revealed that cabinet backed the agreement to secure American support ahead of a crucial MoneyVal test which could effectively blacklist the country.
A Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) establishes the rights and privileges of foreign personnel present in a host country in support of the larger security arrangement.
Malta has been reluctant to sign such an agreement due to a neutrality clause within the constitution. However, it seems that the threat of blacklisting has changed that. The US has long been lobbying for a SOFA agreement in Malta.
Abela insists there is no link between the two, even though the Labour Party has long been opposed to a SOFA deal.
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper will be in Malta on Wednesday to hold talks with the government on the matter. The deal would need a two-thirds parliamentary majority to be approved.
It appears that the government is pushing for a watered-down version of the agreement, with the US allegedly looking for access in Maltese waters to tackle smuggling operations in the Mediterranean.
After failing a Moneyval test back in September 2019, Malta was given one year to address its shortcomings in its anti-money laundering regime.
However, outgoing US Chargé d’Affaires Mark Schapiro said the timeline has since been extended by a few months in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the country fails to pass Moneyval’s retest this October, it will be placed on the body’s “greylist” which will see the island subjected to enhanced monitoring procedures.
Abela has pledged that Malta will pass the test.
Do you think Malta should sign the agreement if it means passing Moneyval? Comment below