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Recalled French ambassador returns to Rome, invites Italian president to Paris

Tiziana Fabi, AFP | The French national flag and the EU flag flutter outside the French Embassy at the Palazzo Farnese in Rome on June 13, 2018.

France’s ambassador to Italy returned to Rome on Friday after a series of critical comments directed at France by Italian politicians, as President Macron invited Italian President Sergio Mattarella to Paris, the Élysée palace said.

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France sent its ambassador back to Italy on Friday following the biggest diplomatic dispute between the two countries since World War II.

President Mattarella received the returning French ambassador, the presidential Quirinal Palace in Rome said.

Ambassador Christian Masset gave him a letter from Macron inviting Mattarella to France. "President Mattarella, in expressing thanks, has cordially accepted the invitation," the palace said in a statement.

France recalled its ambassador on February 7 in what was the first withdrawal of a French envoy to Rome since World War Two.

Ties between the two traditionally close allies have grown increasingly tense since mid-2018, with Italy’s Deputy Prime Ministers Luigi di Maio and Matteo Salvini firing verbal pot-shots at French President Emmanuel Macron and his government, mostly over migration policy.

>> Read more: 'The Alps just got taller': Italy's populist leaders push Franco-Italian relations to the brink

The recall came shortly after di Maio met members of France’s Yellow Vest movement, which has mounted a sometimes violent months-long campaign against Macron’s reform programme.

Since then the two countries have sought to play down tensions between them.

Italy’s President spoke with Macron by telephone “and they expressed the extent to which (their) ... friendship ... was important and how the two countries needed one another,” Loiseau told RTL.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

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