Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at a rally on Saturday that Turkey is planning to remove 10 western ambassadors from the country, including the U.S. representative, after the diplomats called for the release of a jailed Turkish dissident.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting of provincial election officials at the … [+] headquarters of his ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, Turkey, on January 29, 2019. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)
AFP via Getty Images
Erdogan said the ambassadors are now considered “persona non grata,” meaning they are not welcome in Turkey.
Earlier this week, the ambassadors called for the release of Osman Kavala, a wealthy, anti-Erdogan activist who has been jailed since 2017 even though he hasn’t been convicted of a crime.
The current U.S. ambassador to Turkey is David Satterfield, a holdover from the Trump administration who has served since 2019.
The ambassadors from France, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and Norway are also set to be expelled from Turkey.
“They will recognize, understand and know Turkey. The day they don’t know or understand Turkey, they will leave,” Erdogan said at the rally, according to The Associated Press.
President Joe Biden has tapped former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as the next ambassador to Turkey. Flake still needs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Kavala, a left-leaning philanthropist, was arrested in 2017 and sent to a maximum security prison after being charged with “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” for allegedly financing 2013 anti-government protests in the country. The charges were dropped in February of 2020, but Kavala was immediately hit with additional charges of allegedly taking part in a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. International observers have demanded Kavala’s release, saying he’s being held as a political prisoner. Erdogan has derided Kavala, calling him the “red Soros of Turkey,” referring to Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is well known for funding left-leaning groups. The Council of Europe, an international organization focused on human rights, which Turkey is a member of, plans to begin infringement proceedings against Turkey in November if Kavala is not freed.
Erdogan orders removal of 10 ambassadors, including US envoy (The Associated Press)
Turkey’s Osman Kavala case: A break with Europe? (Deutsche Welle)