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5th Mar 2024

Erdoğan orders out US and EU ambassadors

  • Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Photo: Flickr)
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Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ordered out the ambassadors of his top Nato allies and Western investors, in what his opponents called a reckless political stunt.

"I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: 'These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at once. You will sort it out immediately'," Erdoğan said in a speech in Eskişehir, north-west Turkey, on Saturday (23 October).

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"They will recognise, understand, and know Turkey. The day they don't know or understand Turkey, they will leave," he added, Reuters reports.

Being designated 'persona non grata' means diplomats lose their immunity and other privileges and usually go home, as they can no longer do their jobs.

The 10 ambassadors - from Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the US - had earlier angered Erdoğan by calling for a "just and speedy" trial for Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and the US are Turkey's Nato allies.

The US is its top arms supplier. Germany is also its main trading partner and the Netherlands is its biggest foreign investor.

Kavala has been held for more than four years on charges including involvement in an anti-Erdoğan coup in 2016.

Most of the targeted countries and the EU had not responded by Monday.

But German liberal MP Alexander Lambsdorff said it would be "imprudent, undiplomatic, and weakening for the cohesion of [Nato]", while Claudia Roth, a German Green MP, said Erdoğan's "unscrupulous actions against his critics are becoming increasingly uninhibited".

Norway's envoy had "not done anything that warrants an expulsion", its foreign ministry also told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Erdoğan's political opponents saw the move as a popularity stunt, after his AKP party slumped to just 30 percent support in an economic malaise.

"The reason for these moves is not to protect national interests but to create artificial reasons for the ruining of the economy," the 'CHP' opposition party's leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said.

It would "bring Turkey's solitude in the international arena to an irreparable level", the CHP's shadow-foreign minister, Ünal Çeviköz, added.

"This terrifying statement will fortify Turkey's image as a worn-out country similar to African dictatorships," Aydın Sezgin, an MP from the 'İYİ' party, also said.

"I still hope Ankara will not go through with this," Sinan Ülgen, a former Turkish ambassador who now works with the Carnegie Europe think-tank, added.

Speaking earlier in the week, the 10 ambassadors said Kavala's detention had "cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law, and transparency in the Turkish judicial system".

Meanwhile, Erdoğan called Kavala "Soros scum", as well as a "bandit", "murderer", and "terrorist".

"These toxic comments from the president about a case currently before the courts are one more assault on Turkey's supposedly independent legal system," Mark Malloch-Brown, the head of the Open Society, a New York-based charity owned by philanthropist George Soros, for whom Kavala once worked, said.

Kavala himself has declined to attend hearings in protest at what he called his show trial.

And the European Commission, in a report on Turkey-EU relations last week, also painted a sad picture of Erdoğan's rule.

"The EU's serious concerns on the continued deterioration of democracy, the rule of law, fundamental rights, and the independence of the judiciary have not been addressed [since 2020]. There was further backsliding in many areas," it said.

"Under the current circumstances, Turkey's [EU] accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill," it added, in one of its hardest reports since the accession talks began in 2005.

The commission's views were "baseless", Erdoğan's foreign ministry said.

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