France has recalled its ambassador in Rome after what Paris described as baseless and repeated attacks from Italy's political leaders in past months, and urged Italy to return to a more friendly stance.
"France has been, for several months, the target of repeated, baseless attacks and outrageous statements," France's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It said Italy's attacks were without precedent since World War II.
"Having disagreements is one thing, but manipulating the relationship for electoral aims is another," it added.
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 goaded French President Emmanuel Macron on a host of inflammatory issues.
"All of these actions are creating a serious situation which is raising questions about the Italian government's intentions towards France."
On Wednesday, France's Foreign Ministry denounced as "unacceptable" a meeting between Di Maio and France's "yellow vest" anti-government protesters.
"This new provocation is unacceptable between neighbouring countries and partners at the heart of the European Union," a ministry spokesman said in a statement a day after Di Maio met the protesters on French soil.
"Mr Di Maio, who has governmental responsibilities, should ensure that he does not impair with its repeated interferences our bilateral relations, in the interest of both France and Italy," the spokesman said.
Di Maio announced Tuesday that he had met near Paris with yellow vest leader Christophe Chalencon and candidates on a "yellow vest" list for European Parliament elections in May, led by Ingrid Levavasseur.
He invited them and other yellow vests to a follow-up meeting in Rome, claiming on Twitter that "the wind of change has crossed the Alps."
Tensions have flared between the two countries since the Five Star Movement and far-right League party came to power in a coalition in Italy last June.
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