France recalls its ambassador to Italy

Frederick Owens
February 8, 2019

France recalled its ambassador from Rome today, accusing Italy's populist government of "unacceptable provocation" with its support for the yellow-vest protest movement.

Italy's hostile interference in French affairs "has no precedent since the war", said the French foreign ministry.

The latest spat erupted on Tuesday after Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, revealed he had met "yellow vest" anti-government protesters outside Paris. "Having disagreements is one thing but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another", the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

Di Maio earlier this week met with leaders of the yellow vests movement who are seeking to contest the May European Parliament elections.

He added that Italy was a friend and ally of the French people and he was willing to meet the Paris government to resolve differences.

Mr Di Maio's meeting with yellow vest activists came after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called President Macron "a awful president" in January. "I claim the right to talk with other political forces that represent the French people".

Macron offered no immediate response to Di Maio.

France and Italy are founding members of the European Union and their unusual dispute is worrying other European Union members.

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"The relationship between Italy and France goes back to antiquity, the ties are cultural and economic and can not be put into doubt", Conte told reporters in Beirut.

"In Libya, France has no interest in stabilising the situation, probably because it has oil interests that are opposed to those of Italy", Salvini told Italian TV.

Ties between the two traditionally close allies have grown increasingly tense since mid-2018, with Di Maio and his fellow deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini of the League party, firing pot-shots at Macron and France, mostly over migration policy.

But in recent weeks the exchanges have grown sharper and more personal.

Last month, Paris summoned Italy's ambassador to protest Di Maio's accusation that France was encouraging immigration to Europe "because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonizing dozens of African countries".

"President Macron has on several occasions attacked the Italian government for political reasons in view of the European elections".

That came after Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini called Macron "a bad president" in January.

A diplomatic row between France and Italy has deepened, with France complaining of "unfounded attacks and outlandish claims" by Italian leaders.

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