Istanbul: Turkey and the EU blamed each other on Thursday for seating arrangements that left European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen without a chair during a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
When the Turkish leader met with von de Laine and Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, in Ankara on Tuesday, the photo went viral and was criticized.
Italian Prime Minister Draghi even hinted that this episode showed that Erdogan was a dictator, which triggered a strong reaction in Turkey.
There are only two chairs in the room for the three leaders, arranged next to the corresponding EU and Turkish flags.
Erdogan and Michel soon took their seats, and the diplomat von der Leyen was the same as the two diplomats.
“Ehm”, she said while spreading her arms in wonder and looking directly at Michel and Erdogan.
Official images later showed her seated on a sofa opposite Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“The seating arrangements were made in line with the EU suggestion. Period,” he said in the first public statement by a Turkish official on the episode.
“We would not be revealing this fact had accusations not been made against Turkey,” Cavusoglu told reporters.
But Michel’s European Council stated that its protocol team was denied access to the conference room early, and the three leaders sat in the conference room for a meeting first.
“If the room for the tete-a-tete had been visited, we would have suggested to our hosts that, as a courtesy, they replace the sofa with two armchairs for the President of the Commission,” the protocol team said in a letter.