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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Erdogan lifted threat to expel Western ambassadors in Turkey


ISTANBUL (AP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped back late Monday from threatening to expel ambassadors from 10 Western countries for their support of a jailed activist, defusing a potential diplomatic crisis.

“We believe that these ambassadors, who have fulfilled their obligations under Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, will now be more careful in their statements,” he said in a televised speech after a three-hour cabinet meeting in Ankara.

Envoys, including those from the United States, Germany and France, last week called for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been in Turkish prison for four years awaiting trial on charges that many believe are unfounded.

The Ambassadors of the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and New Zealand also joined the appeal.

During a cabinet meeting on Monday, the US Embassy in Ankara tweeted that it “supports compliance” with Article 41, which sets out the duty of diplomats to respect the laws of the host state and not interfere in internal affairs. Other missions sent the same message.

The state news agency Anadolu interpreted this as a “step back.” Referring to sources in the president, he said that Erdogan “positively perceived” this decision.

“Those who shaped our country the way they wanted in the past panicked when Turkey came forward with its own position,” Erdogan said after the meeting.

He described this “outrageous” initial statement as a direct attack on Turkey’s judiciary and sovereignty. “Our intention is never to create a crisis, but to protect the dignity of our country,” the president said.

“Anyone who does not respect the independence of our country and the sensitivity of our nation, regardless of his title, cannot be accommodated in this country.”

In Washington, which sought clarification about Erdogan’s threat, State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on what Turkey had clarified if anything, but noted a shift in position and said US Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield would remain in the country.

“We will continue to promote the rule of law and respect for human rights around the world,” Price said. “The Biden administration is committed to working with Turkey on common priorities, and as with any NATO ally, we will continue our dialogue to resolve any differences. We believe that the best way forward is cooperation on issues of mutual interest, and we know that we have many issues of mutual interest with Turkey. ”

On Saturday, Erdogan announced that he had ordered the envoys declared persona non grata, paving the way for their expulsion from Turkey.

The crisis threatened new shocks in Ankara’s troubled relations with NATO allies and EU members. The Turkish lira fell sharply after Erdogan’s announcement over the weekend, hitting a record low of 9.85 per dollar on Monday morning.

The president’s comments on Monday marked the end of two tense days, as there has been no official announcement since Saturday about possible action against diplomats.

“The situation is generally serious, but we understand that the countries concerned have not yet been notified of any action,” European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said earlier Monday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman told reporters in Berlin before Erdogan made later remarks that “we take note of the Turkish president’s statements with concern as well as misunderstanding.”

“So far, there has been no official statement from the Turkish side,” Steffen Seibert said, adding that “we are in close negotiations with our partners who are under a similar threat.”

A group of about 40 pro-government protesters gathered on Monday outside the US Embassy in Ankara, demanding the removal of 10 envoys. Members of the Turkish Youth Union carried banners with a mock-up of the airline’s boarding pass.

Kavala, 64, was acquitted last February on charges related to nationwide anti-government protests in 2013, but the decision was overturned and merged with charges related to a 2016 coup d’état attempt. If found guilty, he faces life imprisonment.

The European Court of Human Rights demanded his release in 2019, saying his detention silenced him and was not supported by evidence of wrongdoing. The Council of Europe says it will begin legal proceedings against Turkey at the end of November if Kavala is not released.

Although Kavala’s continued imprisonment has been widely criticized abroad, Turkey claims that he is being detained in accordance with the rulings of its independent judiciary.

Kavala’s wife, Aishe Bugra, called his imprisonment inexplicable. “This situation cannot be explained logically or legally,” she said in comments posted on the Halk TV website on Monday.

Bugra, a professor of political economy, said the president’s comments on Saturday, in which he compared her husband’s imprisonment to the treatment of “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in other countries, contradicted the principle of judicial independence.

As a member of the Council of Europe, Turkey is bound by the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Bugra said she sees the ambassadors’ statement as an attempt to limit possible actions against Turkey.

“The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has announced that it will impose sanctions if Osman is not released at the end of November,” she said. “This is something serious. I interpret the ambassadors’ initiative as a well-intentioned attempt to prevent such a development of events. “


Associated Press contributors Lorne Cook from Brussels and Kirsten Grishaber from Berlin contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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