Italy’s Draghi slams Erdoğan as a ‘dictator’ after Sofagate – POLITICO



Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 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 European Commission President von der Leyen had to undergo,” Draghi said during a press conference Thursday evening.

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 — an incident that has since gone viral online and been dubbed Sofagate.

“I believe it wasn’t appropriate behavior,” Draghi said, before commenting on how one should deal with “dictators.”

“With these — let’s call them for what they are — dictators, which 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, a former European Central Bank boss.

Turkey’s foreign ministry later summoned the Italian ambassador to condemn Draghi’s remarks, according to Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted that “We strongly condemn appointed Italian PM’s unacceptable remarks on our elected president, [and call on the Italian PM to] return the impudent remarks.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Çavuşoğlu also downplayed the confusion over the seating arrangements, saying Turkey had satisfied all the protocol requirements of the EU side, according to Anadolu.

Michel initially said the Sofagate incident was not his fault but rather the result of a “strict interpretation by the Turkish services of protocol rules,” though 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 played down the significance of the Turkish snub, saying he also had to sit on a sofa in the past in accordance with protocol.

This article has been updated with response from Turkey and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.





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