Erdogan critics say demand for evictions a distraction from economic problems – .

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Erdogan critics say demand for evictions a distraction from economic problems – .


  • Erdogan takes Turkey over precipice, opposition leader says
  • Kavala in prison since the end of 2017 without conviction
  • The Turkish lira has lost almost a quarter of its value this year
  • Polls show support for Erdogan ahead of 2023 election

ISTANBUL, October 24 (Reuters) – Political opponents of President Tayyip Erdogan have said his call to expel ambassadors from 10 Western allies was an attempt to distract from Turkey’s economic woes, while diplomats hoped that evictions could still be avoided.

On Saturday, Erdogan said he had ordered the envoys to be declared “persona non grata” for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala from prison. The Foreign Ministry has yet to carry out the president’s instruction, which would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power.

The diplomatic crisis coincides with investor concerns about the Turkish lira falling to an all-time high after the central bank, under pressure from Erdogan to stimulate the economy, unexpectedly cut interest rates by 200 points last week.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition CHP party, said Erdogan “was quickly dragging the country over a precipice”.

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

Kavala, a contributor to many civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, accused of funding nationwide protests in 2013 and participating in a failed coup in 2016. He denies charges and remained in custody while his trial continues.

“We’ve seen this movie before. Let us return immediately to our real agenda and to the fundamental problem of this country, the economic crisis, ”said deputy leader of the opposition party IYI, Yavuz Agiralioglu.

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

Sinan Ulgen, chairman of Istanbul-based think-tank Edam and former Turkish diplomat, said Erdogan’s timing was incongruous as Turkey sought to recalibrate its foreign policy away from episodes of tension in recent years.

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

Erdogan did not always follow through on threats.

In 2018, Erdogan said Turkey would boycott American electronics products in a dispute with Washington. The sales of the goods were not affected. Last year, he called on the Turks to boycott French products over what he called President Emmanuel Macron’s “anti-Islam” program, but did not follow through.

CABINET MEETING

A diplomatic source said a decision on envoys could be made at Monday’s cabinet meeting and that de-escalation was possible given concerns about potential diplomatic fallout. Erdogan has said he will meet with US President Joe Biden at the G20 summit next weekend in Rome.

According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a state can notify a country’s diplomatic mission that a staff member is unwelcome. The country can recall that person or terminate their functions.

Erdogan dominated Turkish politics for two decades, but support for his ruling alliance eroded significantly ahead of the elections scheduled for 2023, in part due to the steep rise in the cost of living.

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

Emre Peker, of London-based consultancy Eurasia Group, said the threatened evictions at a time when the economy faces “enormous challenges, are reckless at best and a foolish bet at worst to bolster the plummeting popularity of ‘Erdogan’.

“Erdogan has to project power for reasons of domestic politics,” he said, adding that generally countries whose envoys have been expelled retaliate with tit-for-tat expulsions. “This will make relations increasingly difficult with Washington and the EU. “

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 resolution of Kavala’s case, and his “urgent release”. They were summoned by the Foreign Ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.

The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release two years ago, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offense.

Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the affected countries made up half of Turkey’s top 10 trading partners, pointing to the potential setback in Erdogan’s efforts to stimulate the economy ahead of the elections.

“Erdogan believes he can win the next Turkish elections by accusing the West of attacking Turkey, despite the deplorable state of the country’s economy,” he wrote on Twitter.

Written by Daren Butler Editing by Dominic Evans and Giles Elgood

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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