Feb 08, 2019 07:41 Asia/Tehran
  • French Ambassador Christian Masset
    French Ambassador Christian Masset

France has recalled its ambassador from Italy for consultations over 'unprecedented' criticism by Italian officials, the French Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Iran Press/Europe: Blaming what it called baseless verbal attacks from Italy’s political leaders, Paris has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassador 'Christian Masset' from Rome, in the worst crisis between the two neighboring countries since the second world war.

The move comes after Italian deputy PM met leaders of the anti-Macron movement called 'Yellow Vests', The Guardian reported.

 Luigi Di Maio, fourth from right, meets European parliamentary candidates standing in France on a 'Yellow Vests' list. Photograph: Facebook/Luigi Di Maio

Italy’s two deputy prime ministers, the far-right Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio of the populist, anti-establishment Five Star Movement, have in recent months criticised the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on a host of inflammatory issues, from immigration to the (Yellow Vests) anti-government demonstrations.

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Di Maio this week also met leaders of the 'Yellow Vests' seeking to run in May’s European parliament elections as he declared the 'wind of change has crossed the Alps' and a 'new Europe is being born of the yellow vests'. France said the comments were an unacceptable provocation.

(France has deployed thousands of security forces to the capital Paris ahead of new round of popular 'Yellow Vest' protests).

Announcing the immediate return to Paris of its ambassador for talks, the French foreign office said in a statement: "For several months, France has been the target of repeated, baseless attacks and outrageous statements. Having disagreements is one thing but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another".

“All of these actions are creating a serious situation which is raising questions about the Italian government’s intentions towards France", the statement reiterated.

Salvini responded by saying the Italian government did not want to fall out with France and suggested a meeting with Macron to fix the relationship.

Luigi Di Maio (left) and Matteo Salvini have recently criticised Emmanuel Macron on inflammatory issues. 

"I don’t want to row with anyone, I’m prepared to go to Paris, even by foot, to discuss the many issues we have", he said.

The long-running political spat between Italy and France has been viewed as the biggest bust-up between the countries since 1945. Both sides were initially seen to be using their differences for electoral reasons: Salvini to push his far-right agenda and Macron to style himself as a centrist counterweight against populism in May’s European parliamentary elections.

Relations soured after Italy’s populist government came to power last June. Macron, who was under pressure at home for not accepting the Aquarius migrant ship that Salvini turned away from Italian ports, said populism was spreading across Europe 'a bit like leprosy'.

He did not name Italy but the leprosy comment was taken to be directly aimed at Rome. 103/ 211 /207

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