Turkey suspends $83 million deal with Italy over Draghi remarks

Turkey has frozen an $83 million deal for the purchase of helicopters from an Italian company after Prime Minister Mario Draghi criticised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Italian newspapers La Repubblica and Il Fatto Quotidiano reported on Sunday.

Turkish authorities are demanding an official apology from the Italian government over Draghi’s reference to the Turkish leader as a  “dictator” during a recent visit of top EU officials to Turkey, the newspapers said.

Reports emerged that Draghi criticised Erdoğan over “inappropriate behaviour” during the Ankara visit of European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday, when von der Leyen was left without a seat as the two men took the only chairs in the room.

Ankara has reportedly frozen a deal to buy training helicopters from Italian company Leonardo, which was expected to be signed in the coming days, the newspapers said, adding that at least three Italian companies operating in Turkey have also received notices from Ankara, including energy company Ansaldo Energia that builds power plants in Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu had condemned Draghi's remarks as “unacceptable populist rhetoric”, and Italy’sambassador to Ankara was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry over the comments.