Turkey on Thursday strongly rejected accusations that it snubbed Ursula von der Leyen — one of the European Union's most powerful executives — because of her gender, insisting that the EU's own protocol requests were applied during a meeting at the Turkish presidential complex.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey had come under extremely unfair criticism over the visit and alleged slight shown to von der Leyen.
This Tuesday, Charles Michel, head of the EU Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU Commission, visited Ankara and met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as part of diplomatic efforts to improve relations between the bloc and Turkey.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was taken aback when Charles Michel, head of the European Council, took the only chair available next to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at his presidential palace on Tuesday.
Turkish top diplomat dismissed misguided accounts concerning the seating at the meeting at the presidential complex.
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the seating arrangement was in line with international protocol and that Turkey was being subject to "unjust accusations".
"Turkey is a deep-rooted state, it is not the first time it hosts a guest. The protocol followed for meetings in Turkey is within the international protocol framework. The same was done here too," he told reporters in Ankara.
"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."
The Turkish minister added that he felt obliged to lay the blame on the EU publicly following accusations against Turkey from even "the highest levels of the EU."
Relations between Turkey and the EU are better in the wake of a bloc summit last December and the visit of two top EU officials to the capital Ankara this week, Turkey's foreign minister said in a statement.
At a joint press conference with his Kuwaiti counterpart Ahmad Nasser Al Mohammad Al-Sabah at the presidential complex, Çavuşoğlu said relations between his country and the bloc now are on a much more positive track since this week's visit and in the wake of an EU summit last December.
Bilateral visits and communications are ongoing, and important meetings and consultation mechanisms between Turkish and EU officials are continuing, he said.
"Through our meetings with the delegations of both sides, each clearly stated their opinions about bilateral talks. I would like to state that these meetings have been very beneficial," Çavuşoğlu said.