French minister warns Italian populist over diplomat recall

A man wears a yellow shirt with writing in French reading "France in anger" during a demonstration of Italian and French yellow vests, in Sanremo, Italy, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. France's government spokesman said that the recall of the French ambassador to Italy 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. (Riccardo Antimiani/ANSA via AP)

PARIS (AP) — France’s Europe minister says she hopes the “message was understood” by Italy after this week’s stunning recall of France’s ambassador to Italy in the two EU countries’ biggest diplomatic dispute since World War II.

The main trigger for the crisis appeared to be Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio’s meeting near Paris with members of the yellow vests, a French anti-government movement that is now seeking seats in the European Parliament.

Minister Nathalie Loiseau, speaking to The Associated Press on Saturday, warned if Di Maio “hopes to build a coalition for the European elections” with the yellow vests he “will find us standing in his way.”

French officials say Ambassador Christian Masset’s recall was prompted by “unfounded attacks” from populists in Italy’s government who have criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s policies.

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