France recalls its ambassador to Italy after 'provocations' by Italian leaders
Posted February 7, 2019 9:51 a.m. EST
CNN — France has recalled its ambassador from Italy for consultations over "unprecedented" and "repeated" criticism by Italian officials, the French foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday.
"For several months, France has been the target of repeated criticism, baseless attacks and outrageous declarations that everyone knows about," it said.
"This is unprecedented since the end of the war. To have disagreements is one thing, to exploit the relationship for electoral aims is another."
In the statement, Paris said the criticisms "create a serious situation that questions the intentions of the Italian government with regards to its relationship to France."
The decision to recall the ambassador comes one day after a spokeswoman for the French foreign ministry said it was "unacceptable" that Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio met with France's yellow vest anti-government protesters.
"This latest provocation is unacceptable between neighbors and EU partners," the foreign ministry spokeswoman said, adding that di Maio "must be careful not to undermine our bilateral relationship through repeated acts of interference."
Di Maio posted a picture of him in France with "gilets jaunes" leader Christophe Chalençon and European parliament election candidate Ingrid Levavasseur, and said that "the wind of change has crossed the Alps."
The war of words between the two countries began last summer, when French President Emmanuel Macron warned that populism was "spreading like leprosy." Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini hit back in January, calling Macron a "very bad president" and saying that he was to blame for the yellow vest protests.