France recalls Italy ambassador after worst verbal onslaught 'since the war'

  • The two deputy premiers, who swept to power last year, appear to believe that attacking Macron, a fervent Europhile, would motivate their domestic voter base before EU elections in May.
Italys Labor and Industry Minister and deputy PM Luigi Di Maio (L) and Italys Interior Minister and deputy PM Matteo Salvini smile before the swearing in ceremony of the new government at Quirinale Palace in Rome on June 1, 2018. 
ALBERTO PIZZOLI | AFP | Getty Images
Italys Labor and Industry Minister and deputy PM Luigi Di Maio (L) and Italys Interior Minister and deputy PM Matteo Salvini smile before the swearing in ceremony of the new government at Quirinale Palace in Rome on June 1, 2018. 

France has recalled its ambassador in Rome on Thursday after what it described as baseless and repeated attacks from Italy's political leaders, whom it urged to return to a more friendly stance.

Italy's two deputy prime ministers, Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League and Luigi Di Maio of the populist, anti-establishment 5-Star movement, have in recent months goaded French President Emmanuel Macron on a number of issues.

"France has been, for several months, the target of repeated, baseless attacks and outrageous statements," its foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Having disagreements is one thing, but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another," it added, calling Italy's attacks without precedent since World War Two.

Di Maio has labelled France a creator of poverty in Africa and met with leaders of the "yellow vest" anti-government movement, while Salvini accused it of doing nothing to bring peace to Libya.

The two deputy premiers, who swept to power last year, appear to believe that attacking Macron, a fervent Europhile, would motivate their domestic voter base before EU elections in May.

"All of these actions are creating a serious situation which is raising questions about the Italian government's intentions towards France," said the French ministry.

The Italian foreign ministry had no immediate comment about the French decision, which a diplomatic source said was unprecedented since 1945.