France, Italy reaffirm ties after war of words

The colours of the French and Italian flags being projected on the Campidoglio in Rome in this Jan 30, 2016, photo. It marked the 60th anniversary an exclusive twinning agreement between Rome and Paris.
The colours of the French and Italian flags being projected on the Campidoglio in Rome in this Jan 30, 2016, photo. It marked the 60th anniversary an exclusive twinning agreement between Rome and Paris.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ROME • The "exceptional" historic and human connection between France and Italy has been reaffirmed after the countries' presidents spoke over the phone amid an escalating row between the European neighbours.

French President Emmanuel Macron "has spoken on the phone with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, following the recall for consultations of the French Ambassador to Italy", a statement from the Elysee published by the Italian government on Tuesday read. The relationship between the two countries has been kept going "by an exceptional historic, economic, cultural and human connection", the statement continued.

The presidents also agreed that "France and Italy, which have built Europe together, have a special responsibility to operate together to defend and relaunch the European Union".

Last week, France recalled its ambassador from Rome after Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio met members of the Yellow Vest protest movement in Paris. Its weekly demonstrations have repeatedly degenerated into clashes with French security forces.

The recall was part of a months-long war of words between Italy's ruling coalition - comprising Mr Di Maio's Five Star Movement and Mr Matteo Salvini's far-right League - and France's head of state.

Recent months have also seen Mr Salvini repeatedly accuse Mr Macron of hypocrisy for criticising Italy's hardline stance against migrant rescue ships while at the same time refusing to open French borders to irregular migration.

"The relationship between Italy and France is so solid from a historic, cultural and economic standpoint that they certainly cannot be called into question because (of) single episodes," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday, according to Ansa news agency.

DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'France, Italy reaffirm ties after war of words'. Print Edition | Subscribe