Italian premier Mario Draghi's comments against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prompt a strong response from Turkey.
Turkey has strongly condemned the Italian premier's remarks against the country's president and summoned its ambassador to the foreign ministry.
"We strongly condemn the unacceptable populist rhetoric of the appointed Italian Prime Minister Draghi and his ugly and unrelenting statements about our elected President," Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at a news conference earlier on Thursday called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a "dictator."
Following Draghi's remarks, the Turkish Foreign Ministry called in Italy's ambassador Massimo Gaiani to Ankara to condemn his leader's remarks.
"It is underlined that [Turkey] expects these impudent and ugly statements that are not compatible with Turkey-Italy friendship and alliance immediately to be taken back," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
There was criticism in some circles on the seating arrangement at Tuesday's meeting, where the Turkish president and the EU Council head Charles Michel sat down in separate chairs while von der Leyen was initially left standing.
She was then offered a seat on a couch, with Cavusoglu also sitting down on a separate couch opposite her.
"I totally disagree with Erdogan's behaviour. I believe that it wasn't appropriate behaviour. I was really sorry for the humiliation that [European Commission President Ursula] Von der Leyen had to suffer," Draghi said.
Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister and Director for EU Affairs Faruk Kaymakci also noted that Draghi's statements over EU Commission and Council leaders' protocol arrangements "without knowledge" are unacceptable.
Speaking to reporters early on Thursday, Cavusoglu clarified the brief confusion over the seating arrangement, saying that it had been adjusted in line with the suggestions and demands of the EU.
We reject and return the hideous words directed at Turkey and our President by the person appointed out of desperation as the prime minister of Italy. The inexperinced and impertinent politician is a heavy and unfortunate burden on the back of his country.— Mustafa Şentop (@MustafaSentop) April 8, 2021
'No place in diplomacy'
Turkey's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun denounced Draghi's comments over the Turkish president said that Erdogan won 52 percent of the votes of Turkish people while he was appointed as prime minister.
"We strongly condemn this style which has no place in diplomacy. Those looking for the dictator look at the history of Italy," Altun said on his Twitter post written in Italian.
Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also stressed that the EU-Turkey summit protocol issue was not originated from the Turkish side and "condemn this statement and expect it to be corrected immediately."
'Turkey applies EU protocol'
European diplomats on Thursday pointed out that Turkey has no responsibility for the protocol arrangement of Tuesday's meeting as it took place in line with EU protocol requirements.
Jean-Claude Juncker, former head of the EU Commission, evaluated the criticism in the European press over the seat arrangement of the meeting.
"When I was traveling with [Donald] Tusk or [Herman] Van Rompuy, I always respected that protocol order ... Normally I had a chair next to the chair of the president of the Council, but sometimes it happened that I was sitting on a sofa," Juncker told Politico in a phone interview.
Saying that the protocol for von der Leyen should be different, he also noted that the president of the council is number one, and the president of the Commission is number two as part of the protocol arrangements.
'Protocol is EU's responsibility'
French diplomat Gerard Araud who previously served as ambassador to Israel, the UN, and the US, also mentioned the EU rules on protocol and said Turkey has no responsibility for the issue.
Responding to posts shared by some journalists who criticised Turkey, he underlined on Twitter that a journalist once again decides on a case without researching, it is EU's responsibility and not Turkey's.
Former Italian Ambassador to Ankara Carlo Marsili said he found the charges of "sexism" against President Erdogan irrelevant. Speaking to the Adnkronos agency, Marsili said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Turkey many times and such a situation never arose.
In response to a question on the issue at the daily news conference Eric Mamer, EU Commission's spokesman, said that everyone should focus on the EU-Turkey relations and stated that heads of EU institutions should be treated equally and that he asked von der Leyen's team to take the necessary measures to prevent a similar incident from happening again.