In response to Mario Draghi's accusation of dictatorship, the Turkish government has put a contract for the purchase of helicopters from Italian defense manufacturer Leonardo on hold.
The Turkish government has put a contract for the purchase of Italian helicopters for the army on hold in response to Mario Draghi's "dictator" accusation. This was reported by the newspapers La Repubblica and Il Fatto Quotidiano on Sunday. According to the reports, Turkish authorities are demanding an official apology from the government in Rome. Ankara does not want to be satisfied with clarifications through diplomatic channels, they said.
The background to the scandal is comments made by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi about Turkey's dealings with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the EU leaders' visit to Ankara last week. Draghi accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of humiliating von der Leyen when he himself and EU Council President Charles Michel were seated on two adjacent armchairs, but the Commission chief had to sit on a sofa at a considerable distance. "That was behavior that I disliked very much because of the humiliation that the president of the EU Commission von der Leyen had to suffer," the former head of the European Central Bank (ECB) said. With "these, let's call them by name - dictators," it is necessary to speak a clear language and express the differences in ideas about society, Draghi said.
In Ankara, the Italian prime minister's remarks triggered the usual reactions. The foreign ministry immediately summoned Italy's ambassador, and minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called Draghi's comments "ugly and unreasonable." Now, just days before the planned signing of the contract, the deal to buy helicopters from Italian defense contractor Leonardo worth nearly 70 million euros has been canceled for the time being. The aircraft were to be made available primarily for pilot training with the Turkish armed forces, but not only. Erdoğan had hoped the purchase would open up new opportunities in pilot training and in the army's operational spectrum.
Italian firms in Turkey under pressure
La Repubblica also reported that Italian companies based in Turkey are also coming under increasing pressure. Threatening gestures from Ankara and corresponding warnings have already been issued against at least three companies. Among them is Ansaldo Energia. The Genoa-based company builds turnkey power plants and gas turbines in Turkey.