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, saying it was important to be honest with “dictators”
Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel met with Erdogan in Ankara on Tuesday. The Commissioner was clearly surprised when the two men sat on the only two prepared chairs and referred her to an adjoining sofa.
“I do not agree with Erdogan’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 has to coordinate anyway, one has to be honest 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 Cavusoglu slammed the remarks.
“We strongly condemn the unacceptable, populist discourse of the appointed Italian Prime Minister Draghi and his ugly and unlimited comments about our elected president,” Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.
Earlier on Thursday, Cavusoglu said the seats at the meeting were arranged in accordance with the bloc’s demands and international protocol and that Turkey was subject to “unfair accusations”.
Reporting by Angelo Amante, Gavin Jones and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Edited by Crispian Balmer and Will Dunham