Turkey rejects claim it snubbed von der Leyen, blames EU – About Your Online Magazine

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey on Thursday strongly rejected accusations that it despised Ursula von der Leyen – one of the European Union’s most powerful executives – because of her gender, insisting that the EU’s own requests for protocol were applied during a meeting in Turkey Presidential Palace.

Von der Leyen – the president of the European Commission – and the head of the European Council Charles Michel met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks on Turkey-EU relations on Tuesday. The guests were ushered into a large room for discussions with Erdogan, but only two chairs had been placed in front of the EU and Turkey flags for the three leaders.

Von der Leyen stood looking at the men who occupied the chairs, expressing his astonishment with an “ehm” sound and a gesture of disappointment. She was later seen sitting on a large beige sofa, away from her male colleagues.

The images sparked intense criticism on social media and accusations of gender discrimination.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey had received “extremely unfair” criticisms of the visit and claimed that von der Leyen was despised.

“Turkey is a state with deep roots and this is not the first time that it has received a visitor,” said Cavusoglu. “The protocol applied during its (international) meetings is in accordance with the rules of the international protocol, as well as with the world renowned Turkish hospitality traditions.”

Cavusoglu insisted that the Turkish and EU authorities in charge of the protocol held meetings before the visit and that the agreement was in line with EU requests.

“The protocol that was applied during the restricted scope meeting that was held in the office of our president responded to requests from the EU side. In other words, this arrangement of seats was made in accordance with suggestions from the EU side. Period, ”he said.

The Turkish minister added that he felt obliged to place the blame on the EU publicly, after accusations against Turkey even “from the highest echelons of the EU”.

EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said on Wednesday that von der Leyen was surprised by the deal and that she should have sat down with Michel and Erdogan.

“She decided to proceed, however, prioritizing the substance over the protocol, but nevertheless, let me emphasize that the president expects the institution she represents to be treated with the required protocol,” said Mamer, adding that von der Leyen asked his team to make contacts to ensure that the incident does not recur in the future.

Mamer also said that the von der Leyen protocol team did not travel to Turkey with her due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Michel said on Wednesday night that the embarrassment was the result of “strict interpretation” of the protocol rules by Turkish services and regretted “the differentiated, even diminished, treatment of the President of the European Commission”.

He said that the photos of the meeting gave the impression of being “indifferent” to the situation. “Nothing could be further from the truth or my deepest feelings – or even from the principles of respect that I cherish so much,” he said.

“At the time, while realizing the pitiful nature of the situation, we decided not to make things worse by creating a scene,” he said.

Paula Fonseca