Turkey has reportedly frozen an $83 million deal to buy Leonardo helicopters after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “dictator.”
According to La Repubblica and Il Fatto Quotidiano, Turkish authorities have started to send "threatening signals" since there is no reaction from Rome.
The contract for Leonardo’s training helicopters 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.
On Thursday, Draghi called the Turkish leader a "dictator" and upbraided his "inappropriate behaviour" during a recent visit of top European Union officials to Turkey. The comment added fuel to a dispute over a perceived seating snub involving European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Draghi said Erdogan’s behavior was inappropriate and that he was sorry for the “humiliation” von der Leyen had suffered.
Turkey has strongly rejected the allegation that the top EU official was snubbed and insisted it followed the EU’s own protocols in making the seating arrangements. Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel traveled 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.
The Turkey-EU meeting was supposed to improve relations after months of wrangling over everything from women’s rights to drilling for gas in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
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.