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France recalls ambassador to Rome over Five Star's ties with yellow vests

09 February, 2019, 17:44 | Author: Lucille Rivera
  • Emmanuel Macron has blasted the Italian government's'cynicism and irresponsibility over refugees

"France has been, for several months, the target of repeated, baseless attacks and outrageous statements", a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Paris has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassador from Rome in the worst crisis between the two neighbouring countries since the second world war.

France is recalling its ambassador to Italy amid mounting tensions after Italy's deputy prime minister met with French yellow-vest protesters and a string of critical Italian comments toward French President Emmanuel Macron's government.

All these actions help create a serious situation, which raises questions about the intentions of the Italian government with respect to its relationship with France.

Di Maio did seek to play down the spat in his letter, saying "the political and strategic differences between the French and Italian governments should not impact the history of friendly relations that unites our peoples and our nations".

"Mr Di Maio, who holds government responsibilities, must take care not to undermine, through his repeated interferences, our bilateral relations, in the interest of both France and Italy".

But it was the support of Italian Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio's 5-Star Movement (M5S) for the Yellow Vests protestors in France that triggered the diplomatic move.

Following the meeting, Di Maio tweeted that "the winds of change have crossed the Alps".

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The escalating war of words began a year ago after Di Maio's Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini's far-right League won elections and formed a populist and eurosceptic government with them as deputy prime ministers.

The two countries have periodically argued about commercial issues including shipbuilder Fincantieri's proposed takeover of France's STX and a past Italian government's contention that landline assets constitute a strategic asset.

The French MFA thought this was "the latest interference" and "an additional, unacceptable provocation". 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.

Macron has at times responded, criticizing Italy last June for its refusal to accept a boatload of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, and taking aim at Rome's public finances.

A senior official at the Italian Foreign Ministry, who declined to be named discussing a sensitive issue, said the French decision to recall the ambassador was completely unexpected.

The verbal sparring has only intensified since with Salvini calling Macron a "terrible president" last month in a Facebook video.

"It's a political game by certain people", he said.

"They are very anxious because Salvini is at about 35 or 36 percent and they're going down to about 26-27 percent", Conte said to the chancellor, pointing out that Di Maio could not campaign on immigration as Salvini had that ground covered.

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