US envoy among the 10 ambassadors Turkish president Erddogan has ordered to get out

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia, on Sept. 29. On Saturday, he ordered 10 foreign ambassadors who called for the release of a jailed philanthropist to be declared persona non grata. © Reuters

On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to expel ten Western ambassadors from the country, including envoys from the United States, Germany, and France, for suggesting that an imprisoned civil society leader be released.

"I gave our foreign minister the order and told him what had to be done: These ten ambassadors had to be declared persona non grata right away." You'll take care of it right away. They should be aware of and comprehend Turkey. "They will leave the day they do not know and understand Turkey," Erdogan warned in a televised speech.

When a diplomat is declared persona non grata, it usually signifies that they are not welcome and expelled.

On October 18, ambassadors to Ankara from the United States, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and New Zealand issued a joint statement calling for the release of Turkish philanthropist and civil society leader Osman Kavala, who has been held for four years despite not having been convicted of any crime.

He was cleared of charges relating to anti-government rallies in 2013 but was imprisoned again before his release on suspicion of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt.

It's unclear whether Erdogan's decision to expel the diplomats is permanent. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is in South Korea until October 24. No one from the Foreign Ministry has yet responded to the situation.

Turkey, a long-time NATO member who has aspired to join the EU, has recently seen relations with many Western partners increase. Ankara has been sanctioned by the United States for purchasing high-tech military weapons from Russia, despite naval clashes with NATO members France and Greece in the Mediterranean.

If the ambassadors are expelled, it might be a further setback for an already struggling economy. When markets start on Monday, the Turkish lira, which has already lost more than 20% of its value versus the dollar this year amid near-daily record lows, could see another sell-off.

Meanwhile, Turkey was relegated to the so-called gray list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), founded by the Group of Seven wealthy nations, on Thursday for failing to implement steps to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

With inflation nearing 20% and rising unemployment, opinion polls in September revealed that support for Erdogan's ruling coalition had fallen below that of the opposition alliance for the first time, increasing concerns for Erdogan ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023.

The Turkish central bank's surprise 200-basis-point rate drop on Thursday was widely assumed to result from direct pressure from Erdogan. Contrary to popular belief, the president believes that high-interest rates lead to inflation and is willing to promote growth even if it means surrendering the lira's value.

Earlier this month, he fired three members of the monetary policy committee who determined the rates.

After Erdogan's persona non grata decree on Saturday, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People's Party, stated that the president is trying to make "artificial justifications for the economy he has destroyed," "Turn around and look at the people's dinner tables," he remarked, referring to the impact of food inflation of 29%.

"I was not expecting an early election," Can Selcuki, the head of polling firm and consultant Istanbul Economics Research, said. Too many destabilizing events could compel an early election, or it could be the government's strategy to push an early election."

Political risk consultant Eurasia Group's Europe head, Emre Peker, was similarly critical. "President Erdogan's knee-jerk reactions are motivated by a desire to boost his sagging domestic support by projecting a solid global leader image. Turkey will face diplomatic, security, and economic consequences if Ankara expels a dozen Western ambassadors, including seven NATO partners' envoys.

"At a time when Erdogan is looking to buy more F-16 fighter jets from the United States, intervene in Syria once more, and stabilize the economy, this is hardly a wise decision." It will only worsen Turkey's problems and increase its international isolation, not to mention its reliance on Russia."

Publish : 2021-10-24 11:17:00

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