An awkward moment regarding the seating arrangement when EU leaders visited Turkey earlier this month is due to mistakes and poor communication among EU protocol staff, not issues of gender in Turkey, a senior Turkish official said on Wednesday.
“The debate on the seating arrangements that took place following the visit of the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission to our country has no connection with being European or female,” said Tanju. Bilgic, spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry, referring to the April 6 visit.
It also has no connection to the Istanbul Convention, Bilgic said, referring to a pact on protecting women that Turkey withdrew last month.
In leaving the pact, Turkey said that in some ways it threatened local values, but the Turkish legal system was “dynamic and strong enough” to protect women without needing the convention.
Explaining how the Turkish side of the capital Ankara has strictly responded to requests from its European counterparts, Bilgic said that no differentiation had been made in the provisions of the protocol based on the gender of the visiting officials – Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission and the EU. Head of Council Charles Michel.
“As such, no one should question the hospitality and experience of Turkey, which has a deep tradition of diplomacy, in hosting delegations,” he said.
“Turkey is delighted that the presidency of the European Commission has been assumed for the first time by a woman and considers this an important step in the empowerment of women and equal rights,” he added. .
“Our President has a close and friendly relationship with Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen based on mutual trust and respect.”
The statement also denounced how the “regrettable” incident which “arose out of internal political disputes within the EU and of which all the details are known to EU officials” is still being used as political fodder and is illicitly linked to a alleged gender discrimination by Turkey.
Turkey hopes that the EU institutions will reach a consensus among themselves to avoid similar incidents in the future, Bilgic said.
During the visit of senior EU officials to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there was momentary confusion over where von der Leyen would sit.
Turkish officials have repeatedly said that they are strictly following the protocol’s instructions from the EU side.
Numerous reports on the matter strongly suggest that poor communication on the part of the EU – due in part to the stay of von der Leyen’s protocol team in Brussels due to the COVID-19 pandemic – was responsible for confusion and that Turkey played no part in the incident.
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