France recalls Italy envoy amid war of words over yellow vests

09 February, 2019, 23:42 | Author: Carlos George

France is recalling its ambassador to Italy for talks after what it said was a series of "unfounded attacks and outlandish claims" by Italian leaders.

"This is unprecedented since the war", the Paris-based foreign ministry said in an emailed statement on Thursday. "To disagree is one thing, to exploit a relationship for electoral aims is another".

French President Emmanuel Macron blasted Rome for refusing to take in a migrant rescue ship carrying hundreds of people.

"I have not spoken to (French President Emmanuel) Macron, but I wish to say that the relationship between Italy and France, both cultural and economic, is a deep-rooted one and therefore it can not be put into question by contingencies", Conte said in response to questions from reporters about the recall of the French ambassador.

The move came amid mounting tensions between the two European Union members after Italy's deputy prime minister met French yellow vest protesters. Having embarked on a campaign to unite populist forces in Europe, Bannon has been attempting to bring together various anti-European or far-right political groupings for many months.

He has spent much of the past month touring France in a "great debate" with citizens to try to lift his own approval ratings and regain the initiative in the face of the protests. "We are serious people and we are defending Italian interests".

Italy's Interior Minister and deputy PM Matteo Salvini (C) smokes a cigarette during a visit to the building site of the TAV high-speed train line between Italy and France, on February 1, 2019 in Chiomonte, northwestern Italy.

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The Italian foreign ministry had no immediate comment about the French decision. Picture taken July 11, 2016.

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

Di Maio had already sparked annoyance in January when he accused France of leading colonial-style policies in Africa, prompting the French Foreign Ministry to summon the Italian ambassador. He also said he hoped Macron's party would lose in May's European elections.

Salvini also poured fuel on the fire last month with a Facebook video in which he said: "I hope the French will be able to free themselves of a awful president".

Italy's elections last March swept away a centre-left government whose prime minister was close to Macron, replacing it with an awkward coalition of Di Maio's eclectic Five Star and the anti-immigration Northern League. The last straw: Five Star leaders boasting online about meeting Yellow Vests in France.

"Macron is nervous, the country is slipping away from him", the Italian deputy premier said on Rai television.

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