Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “dictator” in the face of the press, which sparked an uproar.
Von der Leyen was not given a seat at the meeting, but rather sat a little further away on a sofa, and Draghi described this as an “insult” to the chairperson.
Draghi spoke to the press in Rome Thursday evening about the visit of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel to Erdogan on Tuesday.
The former president of the European Central Bank said: “I was very upset by the insult to which the President of the European Commission, von der Leyen, was subjected.”
Draghi said that “with these despots, let us describe them as what they are … one must be honest in expressing his differing ideas and views about society.”
But he added, “One must also be ready to cooperate with them for the sake of the country. The right balance is required.”
According to the official Anatolia News Agency, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter that “we strongly condemn the unacceptable statements of the Italian prime minister regarding our elected president, and we respond to these rude statements.”
The choice of the word dictator grabbed many headlines in the Italian media and angered Ankara, as the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Italian ambassador.