Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday threatened to expel the US, German and eight other Western ambassadors after they issued a rare joint statement in support of a jailed civil society leader.
Parisian-born philanthropist and activist Osman Kavala, 64, has been in jail without a conviction since 2017.
The 10 ambassadors issued a highly unusual joint statement on Monday — distributed widely on their Turkish social media accounts — saying Kavala’s continued detention “cast a shadow” over Turkey.
“I told our foreign minister that we cannot have the luxury of hosting them in our country,” Erdogan told reporters in comments published by Turkish media.
Kavala has faced a string of alternating charges linked to 2013 anti-government protests and a failed military coup in 2016. In their statement, the US, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden called for a “just and speedy resolution to (Kavala’s) case”. Erdogan sounded incandescent with rage in a conversation with Turkish reporters on board his return flight from a tour of Africa.
“Is it within your boundary to teach such a lesson to Turkey? Who are you?” he demanded in comments carried by the private NTV broadcaster. The Turkish lira extended its fall into record-low territory against the dollar within moments of Erdogan’s comments on fears of a new wave of Turkish tensions with the West.
The diplomatic frictions were compounded when the global financial misconduct watchdog FATF followed through on threats to place Turkey under surveillance for failing to properly combat money laundering and terrorism financing. Turkey joins a “grey list” of countries that includes Syria, South Sudan and Yemen.
Erdogan had fought hard against the designation, introducing new legislation that was ostensibly aimed to fight terror networks — but which critics said ended up mostly targeted Turkish NGOs that promote pro-Kurdish causes and human rights.
The Turkish presidency issued no immediate comment about the listing.
But the escalation threatens to cast a pall over next week’s G20 summit in Rome, where Erdogan hopes to meet with US President Joe Biden.
The two leaders have had chilly relations, in sharp contrast to the personal friendship Erdogan enjoyed with former US president Donald Trump, who shielded Turkey from sanctions for years.
The potential expulsion of US ambassador David Satterfield would come during a planned rotation of Washington’s chief envoy to Ankara.
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