French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux says that the recall was prompted by months of "unfounded attacks" from Italian government members Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini.

In this file photo taken on September 25, 2014 Christian Masset, then general secretary of the Quai d’Orsay (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the presidential Elysee palace in Paris.
In this file photo taken on September 25, 2014 Christian Masset, then general secretary of the Quai d’Orsay (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the presidential Elysee palace in Paris. (AFP Archive)

France's government spokesman says the recall of its ambassador to Italy is temporary but sends an important signal toward its historical ally not to meddle in internal French affairs.

Spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Friday on Europe-1 radio that the recall was prompted by months of "unfounded attacks" from Italian government members Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini — and especially by Di Maio's meeting in France this week with yellow vest protesters.

Griveaux said that the visit violated "the most elementary diplomacy" because it was unannounced. 

Referring to Italy's populist leaders, he criticised a "nationalist leprosy" eating away at Europe's unity and said European Union members should "behave better toward partners."

France and Italy are founding members of the EU and their unusual dispute is worrying other EU members.

Source: AP