European diplomats on Thursday pointed out that Turkey has no responsibility for the protocol arrangement of Tuesday’s meeting between the EU officials and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as it took place in line with EU protocol requirements.

Jean-Claude Juncker, former head of the EU Commission, evaluated the criticism in the European press over the seat arrangement of the Tuesday meeting in the capital Ankara in which Charles Michel, head of the EU Council, sat down next to Erdogan in a separate chair while Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU Commission was sat down a nearby couch.

“When I was traveling with [Donald] Tusk or [Herman] Van Rompuy, I always respected that protocol order … Normally I had a chair next to the chair of the president of the Council, but sometimes it happened that I was sitting on a sofa,” Juncker told POLITICO in a phone interview.

Saying that the protocol for Leyen should be different, he also noted that the president of the council is number one, and the president of the Commission is number two as part of the protocol arrangements.

Also, mentioning the issue and reactions from the EU press, Liberation, the French daily, said that the scene shown as misogynistic by many social media users respects the European protocol.

It said visuals should not be relied on as in that case, Turkey applied the EU protocol.

– ‘Protocol is EU’s responsibility’

French diplomat Gerard Araud who previously served as ambassador to Israel, the UN, and the US, also mentioned the EU rules on protocol and said Turkey has no responsibility for the issue.

Responding to posts shared by some journalists who criticize Turkey, he underlined on Twitter that a journalist once again decides on a case without researching, it is EU’s responsibility not in Turkey.

Former Italian Ambassador to Ankara Carlo Marsili said he found the charges of “sexism” against President Erdogan irrelevant. Speaking to the Adnkronos agency, Marsili said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Turkey many times and such a situation never happened.

In response to a question on the issue at the daily news conference Eric Mamer, EU Commission’s spokesman, said that everyone should focus on the EU-Turkey relations and stated that heads of EU institutions should be treated equally and that he asked Leyen’s team to take the necessary measures to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

Some had criticized the seating arrangements at Tuesday’s meeting, where the Turkish president and the EU Council head sat down in separate chairs while von der Leyen was initially left standing.

She was then offered a seat on a couch, with Cavusoglu also sitting down on a separate couch opposite her.

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