The standoff over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors ended in a costly draw with short-term political gains.
Why is this important: Erdoğan’s nationalist posturing seemed aimed at pleasing his constituents and deflecting attention from domestic unrest at a time when public support for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is eroding. .
Driving the news: On October 23, Erdoğan said he had ordered the Foreign Ministry to declare ambassadors from 10 European and North American countries, including the United States, as “persona non grata”.
- This followed a joint statement by the ambassadors of those countries calling for the release of imprisoned philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala, in accordance with a 2019 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
- Erdoğan claimed the statement, which coincided with the fourth anniversary of Kavala’s detention for terrorism and espionage, was a violation of Turkey’s sovereignty.
- Had Erdoğan followed through on the diplomats’ expulsion, it would have sparked one of the worst diplomatic crises between Turkey and its Western allies since the AKP came to power in 2002.
In the wings: The Turkish Foreign Ministry conducted intense negotiations last week to avoid such a crisis.
- Eventually, they were able to strike a deal.
- Erdoğan backtracked and the 10 foreign embassies issued a statement on Monday reiterating their commitment to Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, namely the duty of non-interference in the internal affairs of a host country. .
Between the lines: The 10 countries are among the biggest investors and trading partners in Turkey’s struggling economy, and the de-escalation has prevented another economic shock after the Turkish lira hit a record low of 9.85 against the dollar on Monday.
- More crises are expected between now and the 2023 elections as Erdoğan seeks to shore up the AKP’s nationalist voter base.
And after: The Council of Europe could start disciplinary proceedings against Turkey by November 30 for failing to comply with its 2019 decision to release Kavala.
- Kavala said he will not attend his next hearing on November 26 to present his defense because he believes he will not get a fair trial.
- The crisis erupted days before the G20 summit in Rome, where Erdoğan is expected to meet President Biden in person for the first time since Biden took office.
The bottom line: Diplomats in Ankara may become more cautious in voicing criticism of judicial abuses, but tensions over these and other issues will persist.
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