Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backed off on Monday from his decision to expel 10 Western ambassadors. Erdogan’s plans were widely perceived as cataclysmic for Turkey and its relationship to the NATO alliance.
The 10 embassies of which the ambassadors belong to each released statements affirming that they are acting in accordance with the Vienna Convention Diplomatic Relations.
Erdogan made his own remarks on the incident, justifying it as a tactic in the interest of Turkey’s “sovereign rights”:
“Our will is never to cause a crisis, but to protect the right sand law, honor, interests and sovereign rights of our country. Thus, today the same ambassadors with a new statement turned back from their defamation of our judiciary and of our country. I believe from now on they will be more careful about their statements regarding sovereign rights.”
Erdogan averts diplomatic disaster by calling off expulsion of ambassadors
The last minute move on Erdogan’s part has helped Turkey avert a diplomatic disaster for the country and its Western aliances.
The leader of Turkey had originally told his Foreign Ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries after they demanded the release of Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s NATO allies. The expulsions, if they had not been stopped, would have opened the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan‘s 19 years in power.
Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years. He was charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013, and with involvement in the failed 2016 coup in Turkey.
He has remained in detention while his latest trial continues; he has denied the charges. Kavala, 64, was acquitted last year of charges linked to nationwide anti-government protests in 2013. But the ruling was overturned — and then joined to charges relating to the coup attempt.
In a joint statement on October 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release.”
International observers and human rights groups have repeatedly called for the release of Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, who has been jailed since 2016.
They say their imprisonment is based on political considerations. Ankara denies the claims and insists on the independence of Turkish courts.
On September 17, the Council of Europe issued Turkey its final warning to release the 64-year-old entrepreneur, warning that infringement proceedings against Ankara would start at the end of November if Kavala was not released by then.
But Turkey, so far, has refused to acknowledge the ruling made by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on December 10, 2019, which stated that the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated and therefore ordered Kavala to be released immediately.