Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan “welcomed” statements on Monday by several Western embassies including the United States that they abide by a diplomatic convention not to interfere in a host country’s internal affairs, state-run media said.
The statements were made almost simultaneously on Twitter as Erdogan entered a cabinet meeting to discuss expelling ambassadors from 10 embassies, a move that would open Turkey’s deepest diplomatic rift with the West in his 19 years in power.
“The United States notes that it maintains compliance with Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the US Embassy said on Twitter.
Canada, Netherlands, and New Zealand each sent a similar message, while Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland re-tweeted the US message. There was no apparent statement from the German or French embassies on Twitter.
State-run Anadolu news agency, citing sources in the presidency, reported that Erdogan had “welcomed” the statements. Anadolu and state broadcaster TRT described the statements as “a step back” by the embassies.
In response, the Turkish lira rallied after hitting an all-time low of 9.85 to the US dollar, and was at 9.61 at 1343 GMT. It has lost almost a quarter of its value this year.
Erdogan said at the weekend he had ordered the envoys to be declared “persona non grata” for seeking the release of Osman Kavala, a philanthropist detained for four years on charges of financing protests and involvement in an attempted coup.
The order had not yet been implemented by the Foreign Ministry but could be formally approved at Monday’s cabinet meeting.
The 10 ambassadors represent NATO allies, trade partners and members of the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join despite widening differences with the bloc in recent years.
The diplomatic tension has added to investor concerns about Turkey’s economy after the central bank, under pressure from Erdogan to support growth, unexpectedly slashed interest rates by 200 points last week despite inflation rising to nearly 20 percent.
“The whole situation is a serious matter but we understand that the concerned countries have not yet been notified about any action,” said a spokesperson for the European Commission,
the EU executive.
The 10 envoys were summoned by the foreign ministry last week after calling for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”.
Parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop said earlier on Monday that Turkey’s constitution banned discussion of ongoing court cases, including by Turkish politicians in parliament, and that the envoys’ statement marked a “clear and disrespectful” interference.
“Those who are evaluating the stance our president has put forth on this issue as an unprecedented one must see…that the impudence shown by the ambassadors is also unprecedented,” he said in the northwestern province of Tekirdag.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry said it had not received any notification from Erdogan that its envoy would be expelled, and that it had been in contact with France and the United States over the weekend.
Kavala, a businessman and contributor to civil society groups, is charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has been held in detention while his trial continues, and denies the charges.
Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan, and Kavala said on Friday he would no longer attend his trial, as a fair hearing was impossible after recent comments by the president.
The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s release two years ago, saying there was no reasonable suspicion he had committed an offence and finding his detention had been intended to silence him.