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Erdogan climbs down from threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors who had called for the release of a jailed civil society leader was averted on Monday.

Istanbul, 25 October 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors who had called for the release of a jailed civil society leader was averted on Monday.

The ambassadors had backtracked on their “defamation of our judiciary and our country,” said Erdogan after a Cabinet meeting in Ankara. He believes the ambassadors will now be “more careful” in the future.

It was a marked change of tone from Saturday, when Erdogan said he wanted to see the ambassadors of the United States, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden to be declared “persona non grata” and thrown out of the country.

Erdogan had been incensed by a joint statement the countries issued on October 18 that called for philanthropist Osman Kavala be set free, describing it as inappropriate meddling in Turkish affairs.

The US embassy in Ankara on Monday tweeted one sentence that appeared to have defused the diplomatic spat.

“In response to questions regarding the statement of October 18, the United States notes that it maintains compliance with Article 41 of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”

Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands also posted nearly the exact same statement. Germany and France retweeted the US embassy’s tweet.

Article 41 says diplomats operating in foreign countries should not interfere in the internal affairs of the state they are in.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency took them as a concession, tweeting in turn: “The US embassy in Ankara has given in.” It went on to report that Erdogan welcomed the tweets.

Germany said it had not received any “persona non grata” notifications from Turkey by Monday afternoon.

Kavala is the founder of the Anadolu Kultur non-governmental organization, which promotes exchange and dialogue between Turkey and its neighbours through cultural and artistic works.

Accused of espionage and attempting to overthrow the government by means of the 2013 Gezi protests, Kavala denies all charges, but could face life imprisonment if convicted.

The 64-year-old has been in pretrial detention in Istanbul since 2017, even though the European Court of Human Rights ordered his release in 2019.

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