15:42 GMT16 April 2021
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    On Tuesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was unpleasantly surprised by Turkish-style diplomatic graces, when she realised she had been left without a chair as her fellow senior EU official sat down with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks in Ankara.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has rejected Brussels' accusations against his country over the incident with chairs during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's meeting with his European Council counterpart Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

    The ill-fated gathering occurred on Tuesday, when Michel and von der Leyen arrived in Ankara to meet Erdogan before seeing that there were only two chairs placed in front of the Turkish and EU flags in a negotiating room.

    The two men did not think twice before occupying two chairs, while the European Commission president muttered "Ehm" in apparent exasperation and then sat on a sofa a bit away from the two negotiators. Notably, she was opposite Cavusoglu, who is considered below her in terms of the pecking order of diplomatic protocol.

    European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
    © Photo : European Union/screenshot
    European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

    On Thursday, the Turkish foreign minister slammed "unfair accusations toward Turkey", which he said is "a deep-rooted state" and which is "not hosting guests for the first time".

    "The protocol applied in meetings in Turkey is the international protocol and has been carried out within the framework of worldwide known Turkish hospitality". The EU side's demands were fulfilled. This means that the seating arrangement was made according to their suggestions. Our protocol units came together previously and their demands were realised", Cavusoglu argued.

    The remarks followed European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer insisting on Wednesday that von der Leyen should have been treated "exactly in the same manner" as Michel and that she was "clearly surprised" about the 6 April incident.

    "She does consider that these issues are important and need to be treated appropriately, which they clearly were not", Mamer added.

    Spanish European Parliament member Iratxe Garcia Perez, for her part, struck the same tone by tweeting "first they [Turkey] withdraw from the Istanbul Convention and now they leave the President of European Commission without a seat in an official visit. Shameful".

    Ankara's move to pull out of the convention on reducing and preventing domestic violence against women was announced on 20 March and was condemned by the EU, the UN, and the US among others. Turkey was the first country to ratify the document, which was adopted in Istanbul in 2011.

    As for the Tuesday incident, it also prompted public uproar on Twitter, where many netizens made it clear that either Erdogan or Michel should have yielded their chairs to von der Leyen, amid the spread of the hashtag #sofagate on the social networking site.

    accusations, incident, talks, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen, European Council, European Commission, EU, Turkey
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