Following Turkish President Erdoğan’s retreat from his threat of expelling ten ambassadors because of a joint statement they had made, tensions have eased between Turkey and the ten countries involved. While the world media interpreted the retreat as the Turkish president ‘backing down’, he, on the other hand, claimed that it was the ambassadors who had taken a step back.
Following a call on 18 October by the ten ambassadors for Turkish officials to release the imprisoned human rights activist Osman Kavala, Erdoğan remarked that he had given instructions to the foreign affairs ministry to take steps towards expelling these ambassadors. His remark sparked a dispute that could have turned into the worst crisis between Turkey and western states in recent history.
On Monday the ambassadors announced that they ‘maintain compliance’ with article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations; an article which states that embassy officials enjoying diplomatic privileges and immunities have a duty ‘not to interfere in the internal affairs’ of the receiving state.
The Turkish translation of the announcement, however, emerged slightly differently, saying they ‘confirm they will comply’ with the related article, sounding more cautious and giving the vague impression of a compromise in response to Erdoğan, who had said that the ten ambassadors had no right to interfere in Turkey’s internal affairs.
After the tension eased without negative steps being taken by the Turkish administration against the ambassadors, the Guardian used the headline ‘Turkey backs down on threat to expel foreign ambassadors’, and the New York Times said, ‘Turkish President Steps Back From Expulsions of 10 Western Diplomats’.
Some more headlines from major news outlets:
Financial Times: ‘Erdogan backs down in row with 10 western ambassadors’
Al Jazeera: ‘Erdogan backs down on threat to expel Western envoys’
France 24: ‘Turkey’s Erdogan U-turns on threat to expel Western ambassadors’
Al Monitor: Erdogan backpedals on threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors
The government media Daily Sabah, on the other hand, quoted a remark by Erdoğan in the headline, saying, ‘Western ambassadors took a step back, will be more careful’.
Joint statement by EP Rapporteur and Chair of EU-Turkey Parliamentary Delegation
Turkey’s retreat has also followed a joint statement by the European Parliament’s Rapporteur for Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor and the Chair of the EU-Turkey Parliamentary Delegation Sergey Lagodinsky. The statement, released on Monday, said that Turkey has a ‘serious deficit’ in the fields of the ‘rule of law’ and ‘fair trial’ that needs urgent correction.
An excerpt from statement is given below:
“The measures announced by President Erdoğan against 10 ambassadors over their statement on the ongoing persecution of businessman Osman Kavala are incomprehensible and completely baseless. We can only understand them as an attempt to divert attention from the real urgent issues, domestic and bilateral. It is not these Ambassadors or their governments who decided it is Turkey’s responsibility to release Osman Kavala. It is the European Court of Human Rights that ordered his immediate release in December 2019, reiterated afterwards by six decisions and an interim resolution by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Turkey is therefore obliged to respect this Court’s decision, just as it is under the obligation to follow a similar ruling on Selahattin Demirtaş.”