France sending ambassador back to Italy following spat

2019-02-16 11:09
 Italy's President Sergio Mattarella (L) shaking hands with France's ambassador to Italy. (AFP)

Italy's President Sergio Mattarella (L) shaking hands with France's ambassador to Italy. (AFP)

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France is sending its ambassador back to Italy following the biggest diplomatic dispute between the two countries since World War II.

France's European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, said on RTL radio that Ambassador Christian Masset will return to Rome on Friday.

Loiseau said Italian President Sergio Mattarella called French President Emmanuel Macron and that they discussed "how important the friendship between France and Italy is, how much the countries need each other."

France recalled Masset last week to protest perceived Italian meddling in French domestic politics, after Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio met with French yellow vest activists seeking to run for the European Parliament.

In response to France's decision, Di Maio said he hopes to meet with Masset.

"I'm happy the French ambassador is coming back to Italy," Di Maio told reporters. "I'll ask him for a meeting. In the meanwhile, welcome back."

Di Maio heads the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, the senior party in the Italian coalition government. He has been courting support from fellow populists elsewhere in the European Union with the aim of creating a like-minded faction in the European Parliament after elections this spring.

Referring to the yellow vest protesters, he appeared to want to tamp down speculation the 5-Stars were making alliances with violent elements in the French movement.

"We don't have any intention of dialoguing with that mind-set (of the movement) that speaks of armed struggle or civil war," Di Maio said. He was speaking to reporters in Rome while laying out the 5-Stars' campaign manifesto for the European elections, which he says is supported by political forces in Croatia, Poland, Finland and Greece.

"After years of austerity, now it's time to have Italian, Polish, Croatian, Greek, Finnish citizens be better off," he said.

Read more on:    italy  |  france  |  diplomacy

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