Italian PM angers Turkey by calling Erdoğan a 'dictator'

Draghi slams Erdoğan for humiliating von der Leyen in Ankara.

Italy's prime minister Mario Draghi has sparked a diplomatic spat with Turkey after referring to the country's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a "dictator."

Draghi made the remark on the evening of 8 April during a press conference about Italy's covid-19 vaccination programme at Palazzo Chigi in Rome.

Speaking in relation to the so-called "sofagate" saga, the Italian premier accused Erdoğan of humiliating European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen earlier this week.

Von der Leyen, the first female president of the EC, was left without a chair when she and European Council president Charles Michel met Erdoğan in Ankara on Tuesday.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen was left without a chair during her meeting with European Council president Charles Michel and Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on 6 April.

“I absolutely do not agree with Erdogan’s behaviour towards President von der Leyen. ... I think it was not appropriate behaviour and I was very sorry for the humiliation von der Leyen had to suffer,” Draghi told journalists.

“With these, let’s call them what they are - dictators - one must be frank when expressing different views and visions of society, but also ready to collaborate, to cooperate, to ensure the interests of one's country," he added.

Draghi's remarks led to the Italian ambassador to Turkey being summoned to the foreign ministry in Ankara last night, reports Italian news agency ANSA.

"We strongly condemn the appointed Italian Prime Minister Draghi’s unacceptable, populist discourse and his ugly and unrestrained comments about our elected president,” Turkey's foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu wrote on Twitter.