Istanbul, April 8 2021: The EU and Turkey are blaming each other in a seating misunderstanding that left Ursula von der Leyen without a chair during a meeting with the Turkish President, Recip Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan received a torrent of criticism after images went viral of his Tuesday meeting with von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel in Ankara. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi even suggested that the episode showed that Erdogan was a dictator, sparking a furious response from Turkey.
The room where the three leaders were hosted had only two chairs arranged next to the corresponding EU and Turkish flags. Erdogan and Michel quickly seated themselves while von der Leyen, whose diplomatic rank is the same as that of the two men, was left standing. “Ehm”, she said while spreading her arms in wonder and looking directly at Michel and Erdogan. She was later seen sitting on a sofa opposite Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Defending the misunderstanding, he said “The seating arrangements were made in line with the EU suggestion. Period,” “We would not be revealing this fact had accusations not been made against Turkey,” Cavusoglu told reporters.
The EU meanwhile refuses to believe this saying, Michel’s European Council’s protocol team had been denied advance access to the meeting room where the three leaders first sat down for talks. “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.
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