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Italian Draghi calls Erdoan ‘dictator’ after Sofagate – POLITICO




Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan a “dictator” and criticized him for relegating European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to a sofa during an official visit on Tuesday.

I felt very sorry for the humiliation that the President of the European Commission, von der Leyen, had to endure, Draghi said at a press conference Thursday night.

During the official visit to Ankara, Erdoan offered European Council President Charles Michel a chair next to him, leaving a visibly irritated von der Leyen to sit on a sofa nearby, an incident that has since went viral online and was nicknamed Sofagate.

“I think it was not appropriate behavior,” said Draghi, before commenting on how one should deal with “dictators”.

“With these, let us call them for what they are dictators, with whom we must however cooperate … we must be frank by expressing a diversity of points of view, opinions, behaviors, visions of society . And must also be ready to cooperate to safeguard the interests of their country. It is important. We have to find the right balance, ”said Draghi, former head of the European Central Bank.

Turkish Foreign Ministry subsequently summoned Italian ambassador to condemn Draghi’s remarks, Turkish state-owned company says Anadolu News Agency. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlt Avuolu tweeted that “We strongly condemn the unacceptable remarks of the appointed Italian Prime Minister on our elected president, [and call on the Italian PM to] dismiss impudent remarks.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, avuolu also played down the confusion over the seating arrangement, saying Turkey had met all protocol requirements from the European side, according to Anadolu.

Michel initially said that the Sofagate incident was not his fault but rather the result of a “strict interpretation by the Turkish services of the rules of protocol, although he later said in a TV interview. Thursday: I deeply regret this situation.

Jean-Claude Juncker, von der Leyen’s predecessor as Commission President, came to Michel’s defense and downplayed the importance of the Turkish snub, saying he also had to sit on a sofa in the passed according to protocol.

This article has been updated with the response from Turkey and Foreign Minister Mevlt avuolu.

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