Erdogan declares 10 Western ambassadors persona non grata

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered ten Western ambassadors to be declared persona non grata, risking a new low in Turkey’s already deeply strained relations with Europe and the United States.

In a move that could torpedo Ankara’s recent efforts to reestablish ties with Washington and the EU, and inflict more suffering on the already besieged pound, the Turkish leader appeared to double down on his earlier threat to expel the envoys, including including the American and German ambassadors. .

Erdogan signaled that diplomats would be forced to leave the country after signing a joint statement, released on Monday, which called for the release of jailed businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.

“I gave the order to our Minister of Foreign Affairs and I said what should be done: these 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at a time. You will fix the problem immediately, ”he said in a speech in Eskisehir, in the northwest.

“They must know and understand Turkey,” he added. “The day they don’t know and understand Turkey, they will leave. “

The joint statement by the ten ambassadors – from Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United States – called for an early resolution and fairness of the case of Kavala, who has been behind bars for the past four years on various charges of attempted government overthrow.

Human rights groups, opposition parties and even figures from Erdogan’s ruling party have called the accusations light and politically motivated. In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ordered his release.

But Kavala remained trapped in a series of Kafkaesque trials. Last year he was acquitted of charges of orchestrating the Gezi Park protests in 2013 only to be arrested again hours later.

Kavala, 64, has become a symbol of the radical repression overseen by Erdogan following a violent coup attempt in 2016. His case has been defended by some Western countries.

But Erdogan maintained he was a “terrorist”. Speaking Thursday in response to the joint statement of the ten ambassadors, he said they would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own country.

The move risks inflicting further damage on the already struggling Turkish Lira, which has plunged to a series of record lows in recent weeks amid investor concerns over Erdogan’s interference in monetary policy and its management the country’s largest $ 765 billion economy.

On Friday, the pound hit a new nadir of 9.66 against the dollar after the central bank surprised markets on Thursday by cutting its key interest rate at a time of rising inflation and growing financial instability.

Responding to Erdogan’s remarks, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the country’s main opposition leader, accused the Turkish president of acting not in the national interest but rather of “fabricating false justifications” for the state of the country. ‘economy.

Soner Cagaptay, a senior researcher at the Washington Institute, a think tank, called the move “crazy, even by Turkish standards.”

He said: “I think [Erdogan] digested the fact that the Turkish economy has gone badly. Instead of trying to make things better, he tries to blame the West.

The embassies of Germany, the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands and Canada in Ankara did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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