EU’s Michel Says Reacting to Turkey Seating Risked Worse Spat

European Council President Charles Michel said he risked creating a more serious diplomatic incident if he had reacted when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was left without a chair at a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

“If I had reacted (differently) in front of all the cameras, it could have contributed to the creation of a much more serious incident, an incident not only of the protocol but of politics too,” Greek newspaper Ta Nea cited Michel as saying to journalists in Brussels.

The comments refer to a visit by European leaders on Tuesday to Ankara, where Michel, von der Leyen and Erdogan entered a room for discussions with only two chairs set for the main participants. As Erdogan and Michel took the two center-stage seats, von der Leyen was left to seat herself on an adjacent sofa.

“I’m deeply sorry for what happened. If it were possible, I would go back and fix this incident,” Ta Nea cited Michel as saying.

Von der Leyen expressed her disapproval as she understood the message given, Michel said. “It could look like paternalism if I had intervened more.”

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