Rome, April 11 (Agency) Turkey has frozen a deal to buy helicopters worth 70 million euros ($83 million) from Italian company Leonardo after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Italian media reported on Sunday. On Thursday, Draghi called the Turkish leader a dictator and upbraided his “inappropriate behavior” during a recent visit of top EU officials to Turkey. In a conspicuous mishap, only two chairs were set up for a meeting that featured Erdogan, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The latter was left standing.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed Draghi’s remarks as “unacceptable populist rhetoric.” Italy’s ambassador to Ankara was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry over the situation. According to La Repubblica and Il Fatto Quotidiano newspapers, the Turkish authorities are demanding an official apology from the Italian government and are not going to be content with clarifications through diplomatic channels.
The news outlets said that the Turkish authorities have started to send “threatening signals” since there is no any reaction from Rome. Ankara, in particular, has reportedly frozen the deal to buy training helicopters from Italy that was expected to be signed in the coming days. In addition, at least three Italian companies operating in Turkey have also received a notice from the Turkish government, including energy company Ansaldo Energia that builds power plants in Turkey.