Turkey Demands Apology After Draghi Calls Erdogan a Dictator

ROME — Turkey demanded an apology from Italy's premier Friday for having called President Tayyip Erdogan a "dictator," a comment that added fuel to a dispute over a perceived seating snub involving a top European Union official and deepened an EU-Turkey rift at a time when the two sides had hoped for rapprochement. 

Italian Premier Mario Draghi made the uncharacteristically undiplomatic comment Thursday at the end of an hour-long news conference devoted to Italy's coronavirus pandemic response. He was asked his reaction to Erdogan's treatment of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who was left without a chair during a Tuesday meeting in Ankara.

Draghi said Erdogan's behavior was inappropriate and that he was sorry for the "humiliation" von der Leyen had suffered. 

"It's that with these — let's call them what they are — dictators, of whom, however, one has a need, one must be frank in expressing differences of views, opinions, behavior, of visions of society…but also be ready to collaborate, more to cooperate, to collaborate to ensure the interests of one's country."

Turkey summoned Italy's ambassador to protest, and a presidential spokesman demanded that Draghi retract his words. 

"We strongly condemn this rhetoric, which has no place in diplomacy. If Mario Draghi is looking for a dictator, he should look no further than Italy's history," Erdogan's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said Friday.

As of Friday afternoon, Draghi had not apologized or issued a retraction. 

Turkey has strongly rejected the allegation that von der Leyen was snubbed and insisted it followed the EU's own protocols in making the seating arrangements for the meeting.

Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel traveled to Ankara for talks on Turkey-EU relations. Only two chairs were set out in front of the EU and Turkish flags for the three leaders.

Von der Leyen watched as the men took the chairs, expressing her astonishment with an "ehm" sound and a gesture of disappointment. She was later seen seated on a large beige sofa, away from Michel and Erdogan. 

Michel, for his part, issued a muted mea culpa for his failure to protest the seating arrangement, and said if he could do it again, he would have made sure it showed "respect for everyone."

"Obviously I deeply regret the image it shows and the feeling that was created because of these images, because of this situation, that there could have been some kind of contempt or disregard for the European Commission president but also for women in general," he told DN24 news channel in Belgium.

Michel also said he feared that if he had actively objected, "months of political and diplomatic efforts" to forge better relations with Turkey would have been lost.

The visit was supposed to have marked a new phase of relations between the EU and Turkey after months of wrangling over everything from women's rights to drilling for gas in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean. 

The meeting was supposed to center on improved cooperation on migration and trade, while the EU raised some human rights and rule of law issues. All were supposed to seize on a recent conciliatory tone from Erdogan and pave the way for an EU summit in June to cement improved bilateral relations.

"I mean. Let's not forget the substance which was discussed in Ankara," EU spokesman Peter Stano said Friday in response to questions about the roar of diplomatic outrage that ensued instead of rapprochement.

Turkish Deputy President Fuat Oktay defended Erdogan, saying the Turkish leader had opposed "all kinds of fascism and tutelage" and "won every election with the highest respect of his people."

"I invite Draghi to apologize," he said.

Draghi's remarks found support across the political spectrum in Italy. Democratic Party lawmaker Lia Quartapelle tweeted that "Draghi said it like it is," and right-wing firebrand Matteo Salvini expressed "solidarity and esteem" for Draghi's assessment. 

"The intimidation and discrimination by the dictator Turk Erdogan are inacceptable," said Salvini, who has long demanded that Turkey be kept out of the European Union.

A spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked Friday about the seating spat and Draghi's comment. The spokeswoman said Germany had no comment on either. 


ATHENS – The biggest worry for Greeks isn't spyware or fears Turkey will invade – it's the cost of food that soaring inflation made so expensive they've turned to cheaper brands or gone without, surveys have found.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.


Mitsotakis: Today’s Bill Comes to Define a New Field in Which Everyone Should Move

ATHENS - At the end of August 2022, I announced a legislative initative for the upgrading and modernisation of the protection, the operation of the security agencies and the operation of the communications and after the change in National Intelligence Service's (EYP) leadership and the establishment of double check to the legal intrusions," stated Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addressing the parliament on Thursday during the debate on Justice Minstry's bill on the lifting of the communications confidentiality, cybersecurity and protection of the citizens' personal data.

ATHENS - Greek annual inflation rate slowed to 8.

The Tsigaris cousins behind the successful Nick the Greek quick-service Greek food chain that began in California and has 38 restaurants open and 60 more in the works is selling a majority stake to Yadav Enterprises, because of a Greek link.

DOHA, Qatar — England's players have been asked one question on repeat as they prepare to face France in the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday.

NEW YORK — New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin will miss at least two weeks because of a fracture in his right leg.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.