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Italy’s Draghi raises human rights during visit to Erdoğan

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Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Tuesday he raised the importance of human rights during a meeting in Ankara with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Agence France-Presse reported.

Draghi took a large government delegation to Ankara one year after calling Erdoğan a “dictator” and then getting a firm rebuff from the veteran Turkish head of state.

Their fight flared up in the heat of a diplomatic row about seating arrangements during Erdoğan’s meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Draghi and Erdoğan have held brief talks since then on the sidelines of summits in Rome and Brussels.

But their meeting in Ankara on Tuesday was their first formal get-together since the row.

Erdoğan personally welcomed Draghi at a grand ceremony at his presidential palace and the two leaders exchanged smiles.

They then announced the signing of nine agreements designed to boost trade and military cooperation between the two Mediterranean powers.

Neither leader directly addressed their past exchange of words.

But Draghi said he raised human rights issues and Turkey’s withdrawal last year from the Istanbul Convention combatting violence against women.

“In our conversation, we also discussed the importance of respecting human rights,” Draghi said.

“I encouraged President Erdoğan to rejoin the Istanbul Convention on violence against women.”

Erdoğan did not reply to Draghi’s comments but noted that he hoped that Italy would show “stronger” support for Turkey’s stalled drive to join the European Union.

International concern about human rights in Turkey grew in the wake of a 2016 coup attempt that was followed by sweeping purges in which tens of thousands were jailed or stripped of their government jobs.

Erdoğan pulled Turkey out of the Istanbul Convention under pressure from the most conservative elements of his ruling coalition.

But Turkey’s crucial role as a NATO power in a volatile region has helped cement Erdoğan’s role on the world stage.

The two leaders reaffirmed their support for a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine and the resumption of grain deliveries across the Black Sea.

Erdoğan said he expected “to intensify talks on grain” with Russia and Ukraine in the coming days.

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