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Italian prime minister brands Erdogan a ‘dictator’ after Ursula von der Leyen snub

Mario Draghi at the Quirinal palace in Rome - Credit: POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey has been left angered by Italian prime minister Mario Draghi after he branded the country’s president a “dictator” for humiliating European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The comments about Recep Tayyip Erdogan follows tension between EU leaders and the Turkish government after claims Von der Leyen had been snubbed at a key meeting in the country’s capital.

The incident – dubbed “sofagate” because of the lack of seats for the leaders – overshadowed the meeting.

“I was very displeased for the humiliation that the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen had to suffer,” Draghi told reporters at his latest press conference.

He continued: “I believe it wasn’t appropriate behaviour.

“With these — let’s call them for what they are — dictators, which we however need to cooperate with … one has to be frank in expressing a diversity of views, opinions, behaviours, visions of society. And also has to be ready to cooperate to safeguard the interests of their country. This is important. We have to find the right equilibrium”.

The comments led to Turkey’s foreign ministry summoning the Italian ambassador to Ankara to condemn the remarks.

The ministry said the remarks were against the spirit of the Turkey-Italy alliance and that Draghi should “immediately” take back his “impudent and ugly remarks”.

The country’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted: “We strongly condemn the appointed Italian prime minister Draghi’s unacceptable, populist discourse and his ugly and unrestrained comments about our elected president”.