The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Italian ambassador to Ankara after the statement by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Draghi had named the Turkish leader a dictator with whom he needs to cooperate.
The Italian PM had criticized Erdogan for relegating the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to a sofa during an official visit on Tuesday. During the official visit in Ankara, Erdoğan offered European Council President Charles Michel a chair next to him, leaving a visibly irritated von der Leyen to sit on a nearby couch. The incident that has since gone viral online and been dubbed Sofagate.
“With these … let us call them for what they are … dictators, who we however need to cooperate with … one has to be frank in expressing a diversity of views, opinions, behaviors, visions of society. And also, has to be ready to cooperate to safeguard the interests of their country. This is important. We have to find the right equilibrium,” said Draghi.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also issued a statement confirming the summons of the diplomat to the ministry and condemning his statements. “After the unacceptable statements that the Italian Prime Minister made about our President today, the Italian Ambassador to Ankara was immediately summoned to our ministry tonight,” the document says.
“We strongly condemn the unacceptable populist rhetoric of the appointed Italian Prime Minister Draghi and his ugly and unrelenting statements about our elected President,” tweeted Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Çavuşoğlu had also downplayed the confusion over the seating arrangements, saying Turkey had satisfied all the protocol requirements of the EU side, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu.
European Council President Charles Michel also tried to defend himself offloading the blame to the “strict interpretation by the Turkish services of protocol rules.”He later said in a TV interview on Thursday “I deeply regret this situation.”