Erdogan steps back from threat to expel Western envoys
ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday backed down from his threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors over their joint statement of support for a jailed civil society leader.
He spoke after the United States and several of the other concerned countries issued identical statements saying they respected a UN convention that required diplomats not to interfere in the host country’s domestic affairs.
Erdogan said the new statement “shows they have taken a step back from the slander against our country”, adding: “They will be more careful now.” The Turkish lira pulled back from historic lows on relief that Turkey and the West had pulled back from the brink of what had threatened to become the most serious diplomatic crisis of Erdogan’s 19-year rule.
The standoff began with a joint call last week by the embassies of the US, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden for Turkey to quickly resolve its legal case against the jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala.
The 64-year-old civil society leader and businessman has been in jail without a conviction for four years.
Supporters view Kavala as an innocent symbol of the growing intolerance of political dissent Erdogan developed after surviving a failed military putsch in 2016.
But Erdogan accuses Kavala of financing a wave of 2013 anti-government protests and then playing a role in the coup attempt.
Erdogan said after chairing a cabinet meeting devoted to the crisis spoke of his “duty as head of state to give the necessary response” to foreign violations of Turkey’s sovereign rights.
“The Turkish judiciary doesn’t take orders from anyone, and is not under anyone’s command,” Erdogan said in televised comments.
“Our intention is absolutely not to create a crisis but to protect our rights, law, honour, interests and our sovereign rights.”
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2021