France recalls its ambassador to Italy

French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement Thursday that the ambassador is being brought back for "consultations", and urged Italy to return to friendly relations worthy of "our common destiny".

The yellow vest movement is directly challenging the French government following weeks of street protests against what it sees as the unfair treatment of the rural working class.

The French foreign ministry said it was a situation "unprecedented" since the end of World War Two.

That prompted France to summon Italy's ambassador in protest.

Italy's deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio met earlier this week with supporters of a yellow vest group seeking to run in the European Parliament elections in May. "To have disagreements is one thing, to exploit the relationship for electoral purposes is another".

In a response, Salvini said the Italian government did not have the intention of clashing with France, and proposed a meeting with Macron to make amends.

Marine Le Pen - is criticizing French President Emmanuel Macron amid ongoing yellow vest protests. And the Italian government last fall accused France of dumping underage migrants over the border without authorization.

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

France's Europe minister, Nathalie Loiseau, said the decision to recall the ambassador was rare but necessary.

The big question is whether the spat will have any longer-term repercussions and whether for Italy, it's worth the short-term gain of having got a rise out of France.

Italy's two deputy prime ministers, Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League and Luigi Di Maio of the populist, anti-establishment Five-Star movement, have in recent months goaded Macron on a number of issues.

"This new provocation is unacceptable between neighbouring countries and partners at the heart of the European Union", a ministry spokesman said in a statement a day after Di Maio met the protesters on French soil. France warned him not to interfere in the country's politics.

He invited them and other yellow vests to a follow-up meeting in Rome, claiming on Twitter that "The wind of change has crossed the Alps".

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

Levavasseur is a top yellow vest candidate for the May elections.

  • Rogelio Becker