Italy’s Draghi accuses ‘dictator’ Erdogan, Turkey condemns the ‘ugly’ remarks

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi attends a press conference on plan to fight Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, Rome, Italy, 8 April 2021. [EPA-EFE/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI]

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday (8 April) accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of humiliating European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this week and said it is important to be frank with “dictators”, drawing condemnation from Ankara.

Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel met Erdoğan in Ankara on Tuesday. The Commission chief was clearly taken aback when the two men sat on the only two chairs prepared, relegating her to an adjacent sofa.

'Divan-gate': Brussels angry over von der Leyen Turkey chair snub

The European Commission hit out Wednesday (7 April) at a diplomatic snub that left its head Ursula von der Leyen without a chair as male counterparts sat down at a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

“I absolutely do not agree with Erdoğan’s behavior towards President von der Leyen. … I think it was not appropriate behavior and I was very sorry for the humiliation von der Leyen had to suffer,” Draghi told reporters.

“With these, let’s call them what they are – dictators – with whom one nonetheless has to coordinate, one has to be frank when expressing different visions and opinions,” he added.

The Italian ambassador to Ankara was summoned to the foreign ministry over Draghi’s comments, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency reported, and Foreign Minister Mevlut Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu slammed the remarks.

“We strongly condemn the appointed Italian Prime Minister Draghi’s unacceptable, populist discourse and his ugly and unrestrained comments about our elected president,” Çavuşoğlu wrote on Twitter.

Earlier on Thursday, Çavuşoğlu said that the seating at the meeting was arranged in line with the bloc’s demands and international protocol and that Turkey was being subject to “unjust accusations”.

Omer Celik, the spokesman for Erdoğan’s ruling AK Party, said he “regretted” Draghi’s comments because they do “not reflect the depth of Turkish-Italian relations”.

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