ANKARA, Turkey â€” Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday accused Italian Premier Mario Draghi of "tactlessness" and "rudeness," for referring to him as a "dictator."
Addressing a group of youths, the Turkish president, who has won several elections, also noted that Draghi was appointed as prime minister, not elected, and said the Italian premier's remarks would undermine Turkish-Italian ties.
"First of all, the statement by the Italian prime minister is total tactlessness, it is total rudeness," Erdogan said. "By making this statement, the man called Draghi has unfortunately brought down the axe on our relationship right at a time we hoped Turkish-Italian relations would reach a good place."
"You were appointed anyway, you're not someone who was elected," he added, referring to Draghi. "We'll continue on our path of serving our nation with the strength we get from our people, with the will our people gave us."
Draghi made the undiplomatic remark last week when he was asked to comment on a perceived seating snub involving Erdogan and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who was left without a chair during a meeting in Ankara. Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel travelled 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.
Turkey strongly rejected the allegation that von der Leyen was snubbed and insisted it followed the EU's own protocols in making the seating arrangements.
Senior Turkish government officials rallied around Erdogan, and a presidential spokesman demanded that Draghi retract his words. Meanwhile, the Italian ambassador to Turkey was summoned to the foreign ministry in protest.
In an apparent reference to Italy's former fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, Erdogan also said: "First of all in order to use this expression against Tayyip Erdogan you need to first and foremost be aware of your own history. But we see that you're not aware of it."
Draghi, the highly respected former European Central Bank head, took office as premier in February after the preceding government collapsed in a political squabble and the Italian president asked him to try to form a new coalition. Draghi's government then won, by a wide margin, the required confirmation votes of confidence in Parliament.
The Associated Press