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Turkey denies sexist fraud allegations against von der Leyen

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Von der Leyen, European Commission President and European Council President Charles Michel met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks on Turkey-EU relations on Tuesday. The guests were taken to a large room for discussions with Erdogan, but only two chairs were placed in front of the EU and Turkey flags for the three leaders.

Von der Leyen stood watching the men who took the chairs, expressing her surprise with an ehm sound and a gesture of disappointment. She was later seen sitting on a large beige sofa, away from her male counterparts.

The images drew strong criticism on social media and allegations of gender discrimination.

A women’s seat is not on a standing sofa! A women’s seat is (at) the decision-making table! wrote Evelyn Regner, chairwoman of the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee, while other lawmakers criticized Michel for allowing von der Leyen to be humiliated.

The incident quickly became a hot topic beyond Brussels circles. In Italy, angry callers on Thursday morning radio talk shows expressed outrage at both Erdogan’s choice of two seats and Michels’ decision to pursue the deal.

A listener calling for an Italian state program on the radio said she was disappointed that von der Leyen did not come out, but said he could understand why he did not. The caller argued that women are conditioned by unfair treatment by men in the workplace and at home.

EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told Wenesday that von der Leyen was surprised by the arrangements but decided to continue nonetheless, giving priority to the substance over the protocol.

The incident came just weeks after Erdogan withdrew Turkey from a key European convention aimed at combating violence against women. The move was a blow to Turkey’s women’s rights movement, which says domestic violence and killings of women are on the rise. During her visit to Ankara, von der Leyen called on Erdogan to reverse his decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention named after the Turkish city where it was signed in 2011.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey was under extremely unfair criticism over the visit and was allegedly shown leniency towards von der Leyen.

Turkey is a country with deep roots and this is not the first time it is expecting a visitor, Cavusoglu said. The protocol implemented during its (international) meetings is in accordance with the international rules of protocol as well as the traditions of world-famous Turkish hospitality.

Çavuşo .lu insisted that Turkish and EU officials in charge of the protocol have held meetings before the visit and that the agreement was in line with EU requirements.

The protocol that was applied during the narrow scope meeting held in the office of our presidents met the requirements of the EU side. In other words, such an adjustment of seats was made in accordance with the suggestions of the EU party. Period, he said.

The Turkish minister added that he felt compelled to publicly blame the EU after accusations against Turkey from even the highest EU levels.

Faced with a barrage of questions about the incident for the second day in a row, Mamer did not comment Thursday on the Turkish authorities’ version of the incident and tried to calm it down.

If you look at the presidents’ statements, what she posted on her Twitter account, etc., you will see that this event is not mentioned, Mamer said. Let us not exaggerate the importance we gave to this event. We will make sure things are clarified, so that future missions move forward, according to a common perception of protocol measures.

It took Michelle a long time to react, saying on Wednesday evening that the embarrassment was the result of strict interpretation of the protocol rules by Turkish services.

He regretted the differentiated, even reduced, treatment of the president of the European Commission and said that the photos of the meeting created the impression that he was indifferent to the situation. Nothing can be further from the truth, either from my deepest feelings or really from the principles of respect that I love so much, he said.

At the time, as we realized the unfortunate nature of the situation, we decided not to make things worse by creating a scene, he said.

Mamer said the commission welcomed Michels’ statement.

It is very important for the European Union to show unity when it comes to third countries and partners, he said.

Petrequin reported from Brussels. Frances DEmilio in Rome contributed to this story.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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