Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were arrested for the killing of two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February in 2012. They are currently on bail pending trial and are living and working at the Italian embassy in New Delhi.

"It won't be possible to resolve this question by Christmas, as was our hope," diplomat Staffan De Mistura said. "But we want the case to be concluded so that the two riflemen can return to their home country with their heads held high," he added.

De Mistura said Italy was waiting for a report due in December from Indian investigators over the alleged killings. A media report said Indian investigators had recommended to the Home Ministry that Latorre and Girone be sentenced to death.

Italian officials have been working to secure the return of the two Marines, who were guarding an oil tanker and claim they merely fired warning shots into the sea in the direction of the fishermen's boat, believing they were pirates.

Italy disputes India's jurisdiction over the case, claiming the incident took place in international waters.

The case sparked a major diplomatic row between the two countries when Rome refused to return Latorre and Girone to New Delhi after they were allowed home to vote in national elections.

Amid escalating tension, Italy relented and sent the Marines back when it received assurances from India that the pair would not face the death penalty.


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