Ms von der Leyen, the European Commission president and European Council chief Charles Michel visited Turkey on Tuesday for talks with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan concerning EU-Turkey relations.
After they were led in a big room for discussions with Mr Erdogan, TV images showed that only two chairs had been laid out in front of the EU.
Mr Michel and Mr Erdogan took the chairs as Ms von der Leyen stood looking at both men, expressing her astonishment with a “ehm” and a gesture of disappointment.
Ms von der Leyen eventually sat on a large beige sofa, away from her male counterparts.
“The important thing is that the president should have been seated exactly in the same manner as the president of the European Council and the Turkish president,” EU commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer said, adding that Ms von der Leyen was shocked by the arrangements.
“She decided to proceed however, prioritising substance over protocol, but let me stress that the president expects that the institution that she represents to be treated with the required protocol, and she has therefore asked her team to take all appropriate contacts to ensure that such an incident does not occur in the future,” Mr Mamer said.
Ms von der Leyen called for Mr Erdogan to reverse his decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention.
“Human rights issues are non-negotiable.
“We were very clear about that.
“We urge Turkey to reverse its decision because it is the first international binding instrument to combat violence against women and children,” she said.