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Europe

France recalls ambassador to Italy over “repeated” provocations

media France says that Italian Deputy PMs Luigi Di Maio (L) and Matteo Salvini (R) have made "repeated" and "outrageous" statements about France since they took power in Italy in June. Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

France recalled its ambassador in Rome on Thursday after what it described as baseless and repeated attacks from Italy's political leaders. Italy's two deputy prime ministers, Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League and Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment 5-Star movement, have recently criticised French President Emmanuel Macron and his government on a number of issues.

"France has been, for several months, the target of repeated, baseless attacks and outrageous statements," French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement.

"Having disagreements is one thing, but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another," it added.

This is making reference to Di Maio’s meeting this week near Paris with leaders of the Yellow Vest anti-government protest movement who are planning to run in European Parliament elections in May.

Di Maio has said his movement is ready to help the Yellow Vests, and he said on Twitter that "The wind of change has crossed the Alps."

Von der Muhll said that France’s ambassador is being brought back to France for "consultations," and urged Italy to return to friendly relations worthy of "our common destiny."

No more diplomatic niceties

Tensions have escalated between France and Italy since the Five Star Movement and the League party came to power in Italy in June.

Senior officials in Italy have done away with diplomatic niceties in their criticism of Macron, who has been clear about his ambition to fight against populist movements in the European Union.

Salvini, meanwhile, reacting to the foreign ministry statements, said he would be happy to meet Macron.

In a statement, he said he wanted to reset relations with France, but that France needed to address three "fundamental" issues.

He said the French police had to stop pushing migrants back into Italy and cease border checks at the border that blocked traffic. Salvini also said that France must hand over around 15 Italian leftist militants who have taken refuge in France in recent decades.

(with wires)

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