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Erdogan’s critics say the expulsion request distracts from economic problems

  • Opposition leader Erdogan is dragging Turkey into the abyss
  • Kavala in jail since late 2017 without conviction
  • The Turkish lira has lost almost a quarter of its value this year
  • Polls show Erdogan will fall before the 2023 elections

ISTANBUL, Oct 24 (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan’s political opponents said his call to expel the ambassadors of 10 Western allies was an attempt to divert attention from Turkey’s economic troubles, while diplomats hoped the expulsions were still going on could be averted.

On Saturday Erdogan said he had ordered the envoys to be declared “persona non grata” for demanding the release of the philanthropist Osman Kavala from prison. The State Department has not yet carried out the president’s instruction that would open the deepest break with the West in Erdogan’s 19-year term in office. Continue reading

The diplomatic crisis coincides with investor concerns over the drop in the Turkish lira to record lows after the central bank unexpectedly cut rates by 200 points last week under pressure from Erdogan to stimulate the economy. Continue reading

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the largest opposition party, the CHP, said Erdogan was “quickly dragging the country to the brink”.

“The reason for these steps is not to protect national interests, but to create artificial reasons for the ruin of the economy,” he said on Twitter.

Kavala, a member of numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years and is charged with funding nationwide protests in 2013 and participating in a failed coup in 2016. He denies the allegations and remains in custody during his trial. Continue reading

“We have seen this film before. Come back to our real agenda and the basic problem of this country, the economic crisis,” said the deputy chairman of the opposition party IYI, Yavuz Agiralioglu.

Erdogan said the envoys were outrageous and had no right to demand Kavala’s release, stressing that the Turkish judiciary was independent.

Sinan Ulgen, chairman of Istanbul think tank Edam and a former Turkish diplomat, said Erdogan’s timing was in -propriate as Turkey tries to realign its foreign policy away from the tensions of recent years.

“I still hope that Ankara doesn’t pull this off,” he wrote on Twitter, describing it as an unprecedented measure among NATO allies. “The foreign policy establishment is working hard to find a more acceptable formula. But time is running out.”

Erdogan has not always carried out threats.

In 2018, Erdogan said Turkey would boycott US electronic goods in a dispute with Washington. The sale of the goods was not affected. Last year he urged the Turks to boycott French goods over President Emmanuel Macron’s “anti-Islam” agenda, but did not get through.


A diplomatic source said a decision on the envoys could be made at Monday’s cabinet meeting and that de-escalation is possible amid concerns about the possible diplomatic ramifications. Erdogan has announced that he will meet US President Joe Biden at the G20 summit in Rome next weekend. Continue reading

According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a state can inform the diplomatic mission of a country that an employee is not welcome. The country can call this person back or end their role.

Erdogan dominated Turkish politics for two decades, but support for his government alliance waned significantly ahead of the 2023 elections, in part because of the sharp rise in the cost of living.

While the International Monetary Fund is forecasting economic growth of 9% this year, inflation is more than double that and the lira has fallen 50% against the dollar since Erdogan’s last election victory in 2018.

Emre Peker of London-based consultancy Eurasia Group said the impending evictions at a time when the economy was facing massive challenges was at best rash and at worst a stupid move to bolster Erdogan’s declining popularity.

“Erdogan has to project power for domestic political reasons,” he said, adding that typically countries whose envoys have been kicked out take revenge with excessive evictions. “This makes relations with Washington and the EU more and more difficult.”

In a joint statement on October 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a fair and swift solution to the Kavala case and its “urgent clearance”. They were summoned by the State Department, which said the statement was irresponsible.

The European Court of Human Rights two years ago demanded the immediate release of Kavala on the grounds that there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed a crime.

Soner Cag -tay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said the countries involved made up half of Turkey’s top ten trading partners, underscoring the possible setback for Erdogan’s efforts to stimulate the economy before the elections.

“Erdogan believes he can win the next Turkish elections by blaming the West for attacking Turkey – despite the country’s sad economic situation,” he wrote on Twitter.

Writing by Daren Butler Editing by Dominic Evans and Giles Elgood

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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