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Erdogan critics: Call to expel the ambassadors mere distraction

The President had said he ordered the ambassadors of 10 western allies be declared ‘persona non grata’ for seeking philanthropist Osman Kavala’s release from prison
Tayyip Erdogan

Reuters   |   Istanbul   |   Published 25.10.21, 01:02 AM

President Tayyip Erdogan’s political opponents said his call to expel the ambassadors of 10 western allies was an attempt to distract attention from Turkey’s economic difficulties, while diplomats hoped the expulsions might yet be averted.

On Saturday, Erdogan said he ordered the envoys be declared ‘persona non grata’ for seeking philanthropist Osman Kavala’s release from prison. The foreign ministry has not yet carried out the President’s instruction, which would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power.


The diplomatic crisis coincides with investor worries about the Turkish lira’s fall to a record low after the central bank, under pressure from Erdogan to stimulate the economy, unexpectedly slashed interest rates by 200 points last week.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main Opposition CHP, said Erdogan was “rapidly dragging the country to a precipice”.  “The reason for these moves is not to protect national interests but to create artificial reasons for the ruining of the economy,” he said on Twitter.

Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He denies the charges and has remained in detention while his trial continues.

“We’ve seen this film before. Return at once to our real agenda and the fundamental problem of this country, the economic crisis,” said Opposition IYI Party deputy leader Yavuz Agiralioglu.

Erdogan said the envoys were impudent and had no right to demand Kavala’s release, stressing that the Turkish judiciary was independent. Reuters

Sinan Ulgen, chairman of Istanbul-based think tank Edam and a former Turkish diplomat, said Erdogan’s timing was incongruous as Turkey was seeking to recalibrate its foreign policy away from episodes of tension in recent years.

“I still hope that Ankara will not go through with this,” he wrote on Twitter, describing it as an unprecedented measure among NATO allies. “The foreign policy establishment is working hard to find a more acceptable formula. But time running out.”

One diplomatic source said a decision on the envoys could be taken at Monday’s cabinet meeting and that de-escalation was possible given concerns about the potential diplomatic fallout. 

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