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Turkey rejects claim it snubbed Ursula von der Leyen after she’s left without seat

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen with European Council president Charles Michel and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan - Credit: European Union

Turkey has hit out at the European Union after Commission president Ursula von der Leyen was left without a seat at a meeting in Ankara.

The meeting at the presidential palace saw European Council president Charles Michel and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan both taking seats, but the female Commission president is left standing, before eventually sitting on a sofa alone opposite Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister.

The situation – caught on camera – has gone viral with the EU demanding the situation is not repeated.

But the Turkish government hit back at the criticisms, which have overshadowed the meeting where the Commission leader also raised the issue of Turkey’s withdrawal from a convention on gender-based violence.

Cavusoglu rejected claims the video showed his country had a negative view of women or that it had snubbed the EU leader.

He said: “The protocol at the presidency met the demands of the EU side. In other words, the seating arrangement was designed to meet their demands and suggestions.”

Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, however, said that it was a deliberate oversight and “puts into question the equal treatment” of female leaders by Turkey.

Leading socialist MEP Iratxe García Pérez said it was “shameful” and criticised the “micromachismo and rudeness” of both Erdogan and Michel.

“First they withdraw from the Istanbul convention and now they leave the president of European commission without a seat in an official visit. Shameful”.

Michel said he was “saddened by any suggestion that I may have been indifferent to the protocol misstep with respect to Ursula” and insisted “nothing could have been further from the truth” that he was “indifferent” to the situation.

“The strict interpretation of the protocol rules by the Turkish authorities gave rise to a distressing situation: the differentiated — even inferior — treatment of the president of the European Commission,” he said in a Facebook post.

Eric Mamer, Von der Leyen’s spokesperson, explained: “The president of the commission was clearly surprised and that is something you can see from the video … The protocol level of our president is exactly the same as that of the president of the European council.

“Our president is a member of the European council in her own right and normally when she goes to foreign countries she was treated in exactly the same way as the president of the European council.

“The president expects that the institution that she represents to be treated with the required protocol and she has therefore asked her team to take all appropriate contacts in order to ensure that such an incident does not occur in the future”.