Erdogan backs down and will not expel ten ambassadors

The Turkish president has decided to waive their expulsion after tough diplomatic negotiations
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PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a press conference in Istanbul.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has finally opted to take the path of sanity, something not too common for the Ottoman leader. The expulsion of ten ambassadors, which he intended to carry out by previously declaring them all persona non grata, seems to have come to nothing after intense negotiations with his own government officials. These countries include some of the key players on the international chessboard, such as the United States, France, and Germany. However, warnings from Western countries about the consequences of this decision have led Erdogan to slow down the expulsion process.

Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, the United States, France, Finland, and Sweden are the ten countries that signed a joint statement calling for the release of human rights activist Osman Kavala. It called for the release of Kavala, who has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest in 2017 for "conspiracies against the state" and alleged involvement in the coup attempt against the Erdogan government in 2016. The activist has always denied any involvement in the attempt to overthrow the government, which continues its spiral of self-destruction in an increasingly complex external landscape for Turkey's aspirations.

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PHOTO/WIKTOR DABKOWSKI  -   Osman Kavala

"The continued delays in the trial, including the merging of different cases and the creation of new ones after an acquittal, cast a shadow over the respect for democracy, the rule of law and the transparency of the Turkish judicial system," said the communiqué issued jointly by the ten countries. They also called for "a fair and speedy resolution" of the case. But they are not the only ones. For two years now, the European Court of Human Rights has been demanding the release of the activist, considering his imprisonment "arbitrary and unlawful". However, the Turkish government has categorically refused on numerous occasions, turning a deaf ear to rulings that should be mandatory in the country.

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PHOTO/ARCHIVE - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu

The movement in the Ankara offices has been among the most intense since last weekend. Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision posed a major threat to the country's foreign relations, which alarmed foreign ministry officials. In fact, according to media reports, it was senior foreign ministry officials who held talks with the president with the intention of changing his mind, as he finally did. The decision - practically unprecedented in the history of diplomacy - put at risk, among many other issues, negotiations with the United States over fighter jets, something that is also generating tension between the two states.

Erdogan himself had already publicly stated that he had contacted Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to "immediately deal with the declaration of these ten ambassadors as persona non grata". Thanks to the insistence of foreign ministry officials, it was possible to avoid what would have been a serious blow to Turkey's relations with a number of important countries. Ankara's ties with its NATO allies could have suffered greatly if the expulsion of the ten ambassadors had gone ahead.

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AP/NICHOLAS KAMM - State Department spokesman Ned Price during the daily press briefing at the State Department.

The warnings from his ministers have not been the only signals President Erdogan has received about how catastrophic this decision could be. Yesterday, Monday's opening of the markets already marked a downward trend in the value of the Turkish lira, with falls of up to 3%. The depreciation of the local currency is a constant feature that is dragging down Turkey's economy and seriously jeopardising the financial security of millions of families across the country. According to a European Commission report, more than 20 million Turks - almost a quarter of the total population - are below the poverty line.

Although the US claims to comply with article 41 of the Vienna Convention, Turkey considers the communiqué issued by the ten countries "a step backwards". Article 41 prevents foreign ambassadors from meddling in the internal affairs of the country where they are stationed. Ned Price, spokesperson for the US State Department, states that "the statement we issued on 18 October is in line with article 41 of the Vienna Convention", as they were merely claiming that calling for Kavala's release was not an overstepping of their duties.