France Recalls Ambassador From Italy After "Unprecedented" Verbal Attacks

The diplomatic row between France and Italy is escalating. More than half a year after Italy summoned the French ambassador over Europe's migrant row, on Thursday France one-upped Italy when it announced it would recall its ambassador to Italy, citing "outrageous" verbal attacks, repeated "meddling" in its domestic affairs and "unacceptable" provocations.

The French foreign ministry said the decision was taken following a meeting between Italy’s deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio and leaders of the French Yellow Vest protester movement, trumpeting his support for the grassroots protests in defiance of President Emmanuel Macron.

“This is unprecedented since the war,” the foreign ministry said in an emailed statement on Thursday. “Having disagreements is one thing, but using the relationship for electoral purposes is quite another.”

Luigi di Maio, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement hailed the "winds of change across the Alps" yesterday on Twitter after meeting with Yellow Vest activists Cristophe Chalencon and Ingrid Levavasseur.

"The latest interference is an additional and unacceptable provocation,” according to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Thursday. It added that this “violates the respect that democratically and freely elected governments owe each other."

"All these acts create a serious situation that questions the intentions of the Italian government" towards France.

A diplomatic feud has been growing between Paris and Rome over repeated expressions of support for the Yellow Vest protests coming from top Italian officials. Di Maio’s co-deputy PM Matteo Salvini said this week that French people "will be able to free themselves from a terrible president" in May after European parliamentary elections take place.

Chalencon and Levavasseur are themselves planning to run in those elections, according to French media reports.