00:31 GMT17 April 2021
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    Draghi's outburst about the Turkish president was part of the prime minister's comment on the "chair incident" when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was left without a seat during three-way talks in Ankara with President Erdogan and Charles Michel.

    Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has dubbed Turkish President a "dictator", when asked about Ursula von der Leyen's "humiliation" at the negotiations in Ankara earlier this week.

    "I absolutely do not agree with Erdogan's behaviour towards President von der Leyen ... I think it was not appropriate behaviour and I was very sorry for the humiliation von der Leyen had to suffer. One has to be frank with these - let's call them what they are - dictators, with whom one nonetheless has to co-operate when expressing different visions and opinions," Draghi told reporters.

    The incident, which has already been nicknamed "sofagate" on social media, occurred during the recent meeting in Ankara between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and two top EU officials – European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The two men occupied the two available chairs, leaving von der Leyen with no option other than to take a seat on the sofa.

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stands as European Council President Charles Michel and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan take seats in Ankara, Turkey April 6, 2021, in this screengrab obtained by Reuters
    © REUTERS / EUROPEAN UNION
    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stands as European Council President Charles Michel and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan take seats in Ankara, Turkey April 6, 2021, in this screengrab obtained by Reuters

    To make things worse, the incident took place as the three officials were expected to discuss the issue of women's rights in the wake of Turkey's withdrawal from a convention on gender-based violence. The Turkish foreign minister later clarified that the seating arrangement was made in accordance with the politicians' suggestions.

    The politicians met in Ankara to discuss ways to improve relations between Turkey and the bloc, as both parties occupy opposing sides in a set of issues of international concern, such as the 2016 bilateral refugee accord, which involves payments from Brussels to Ankara for looking after refugees whose asylum applications have been denied by Greece over concerns that they are illegal immigrants.

    Tags:
    Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mario Draghi
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