European Commission chief baffled as Erdogan and colleague take chairs – Times of India

BRUSSELS: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was surprised to find his senior EU official colleague occupying the only chair available next to the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan when the duo visited Ankara, and their spokesperson made this clear on Wednesday.
Footage from their meeting on Tuesday showed the first woman to head the EU executive, the only woman in the talks, gesturing in disbelief and heaving a sigh of surprise as Erdogan and European Council President Charles Michael took the two prepped stage seats, relegating her to an adjacent couch.
“The President of the Commission was clearly surprised,” said EU executive spokesman Eric Mamer.
“The President (von der Leyen) should have been seated in exactly the same way as the President of the European Council and the President of Turkey.”
The Turkish government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A MEP, Sophie in ‘t Veld, asked why Michel had not reacted.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Michel said the incident was “regrettable” and prompted by “Turkish authorities'” strict interpretation of the rules of the protocol “. But he said he spoke out against a public confrontation.
While the Commission expressed von der Leyen’s irritation, an EU official who declined to be named said it could have sparked a “protocol and political incident”.
“Turkey meant no disrespect,” the official said. “He extended a very courteous welcome to the two presidents and strictly adhered to international protocol.”
In the past, three chairs were allocated when the Turkish leader visited Brussels for talks with the heads of the Commission and the European Council.
Mamer said von der Leyen had decided not to make it “a problem” and in the conversation brought up women’s rights and the Istanbul Convention on Violence Against Women, which Turkey took up. withdrawn last month.
Brussels and Ankara are testing a cautious rapprochement after relations were strained when a coup attempt in 2016 sparked a crackdown on civil rights in Turkey.

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