Diplomatic feud escalates in Turkey over joint statement by emissaries



ANKARA: Joint statement by 10 Western country ambassadors calling for the release of jailed 64-year-old philanthropist Osman Kavala continues to shape domestic politics in Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordering Foreign Ministry to declare envoys “persona non grata . “

This decision is expected to have national and international political and economic repercussions.

Kavala, who denies the charges, has been behind bars for four years, accused of funding nationwide anti-government protests in 2013.

The ambassadors of France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands called for a swift and fair resolution of the case Kavala on October 18 – the day marking four years since the start of his detention.

We “believe that a fair and expeditious resolution of his case must be in accordance with Turkey’s international obligations and domestic laws. Noting the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter, we call on Turkey to obtain his urgent release, ”said the statement by the ambassadors, echoing the decision of the European Court of Human Rights on its member country, Turkey.

An undated archive photograph released on October 15, 2021 by the Anadolu Cultural Center shows Osman Kavala speaking at an event in Istanbul. (AFP)

The ambassadors were summoned by the Foreign Ministry after the release of the press release.

“I gave the necessary instructions to our foreign minister and I said what should be done: these ten ambassadors must be declared persona non grata immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.

“They will know and understand Turkey. The day when they do not know it and do not understand it, they will leave, ”he added, noting that these ambassadors would not release“ terrorists ”in their own country.

A declaration of “persona non grata” – an envoy who is no longer welcome – is a diplomatic step which is a step before expulsion.

The Turkish government sees the statement by the ambassadors as a direct interference in domestic politics, rather than a reminder of the decision of the highest European court.

Meanwhile, Kavala, who served on the advisory board of the national foundation of American philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society in Turkey until 2018, released a statement on Friday saying he would not attend his next trial on the 26th. November to present his defense, as he believes his hearing would not be fair in light of recent circumstances.

The ambassadors referred to the ECHR in their statement. The highest European court called for the Turkish philanthropist’s immediate release at the end of 2019, saying his detention was aimed at silencing him.

Last month, the Council of Europe warned that the infringement proceedings against Ankara would begin at the end of November if Kavala was not released.

The Danish, Dutch and Norwegian embassies in Turkey said they had not received any notification from Turkish authorities and would continue to urge Turkey to comply with its international obligations.

Experts note, however, that the expulsion of 10 European and North American ambassadors – unprecedented in Turkish political history – could trigger in-kind actions from these countries.

“Like elsewhere in the world, all politics are local,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the US German Marshall Fund, told Arab News.

“Turkish foreign policy has been excessively motivated by domestic policy considerations and this case is no different,” he said.

According to Unluhisarcikli, Erdogan’s instruction to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to declare these ambassadors as “persona non grata” might appeal to his constituents and distract from domestic unrest, but it will also contribute to the international isolation of the country. Turkey at a time when the country is already under US sanctions and came close to being sanctioned by the EU last year.

Last year, the US administration sanctioned the Turkish defense industry for its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile system. This action was taken under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act 2017.

“In addition, Turkey is going through a currency crisis, which could trigger a financial crisis around 18 months before the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for June 2023,” Unluhisarcikli said.

In public statements, the former Turkish ambassadors stressed that although harsh reactions can be given in diplomatic procedures, the main focus should be crisis management and resolution.

Abdurrahman Bilgic, a retired envoy who served as ambassador to Tokyo and the UK, said ambassadors to Turkey had the right to declare their country’s position on Kavala’s release, either individually or through of a joint declaration.

“In return, the Turkish Foreign Ministry can also retaliate with a statement to show its discomfort. But in the meantime, ambassadors should not target our government and our ruling judiciary with their back-to-back social media statements, ”he told Arab News.

However, for Bilgic, declaring these diplomats “persona non grata” would not serve Turkey’s interests and could trigger retaliation.

“If the process is managed in this way, Turkey could not only lose its right to vote in the Council of Europe, but even its membership,” he said.

Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution provides that in the event of conflict between international agreements in the field of fundamental rights and freedoms, the provisions of international agreements prevail.

“The expulsion of ambassadors is not the way to defend national interests or to explain one’s position on a given issue. An impulsive foreign policy with an eye on domestic politics has only worsened Turkey’s isolation. This should not be made worse by thoughtless action, ”tweeted Alper Coskun, former Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan and senior member of the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment think tank.

In the past 50 years, Turkey has declared only three diplomats – a Libyan in 1986, a Syrian in 1986 and an Iranian in 1989 – as persona non grata, while the last foreign ambassador Ankara declared persona non grata was an Iranian envoy.



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