ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday accused Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan of humiliating European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this week and said it was important to be candid with “dictators”, drawing criticism from Ankara.
Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel met Erdogan in Ankara on Tuesday. The Commission chairman was evidently taken aback when the two men sat down on the two prepared chairs, lowering him onto the adjacent sofa.
“I totally disagree with Erdogan’s behavior towards President von der Leyen. … I don’t think it is proper behavior and I am deeply sorry for the humiliation that von der Leyen has experienced, “Draghi told reporters.
“With this, just call them what they are – dictators – with whom one still has to coordinate, one has to be candid when expressing different views 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 Cavusoglu condemned the remarks.
“We strongly condemn the unacceptable populist discourse of Italian Prime Minister Draghi and his ugly and uncontrollable comments about our elected president,” Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.
Earlier on Thursday, Cavusoglu said that seats at the meeting were arranged in line with the bloc’s demands and international protocol and that Turkey was being subjected to “unfair accusations”.
Reporting by Angelo Amante, Gavin Jones and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Edited by Crispian Balmer and Will Dunham
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