Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan backed down from the threat of expelling 10 ambassadors – including those from seven NATO allies – for their demands for the release of a prominent pro-democracy activist.
In comments on Monday, Erdoğan said that statements released earlier today by the embassies in question, reaffirming that they would abide by a diplomatic convention not to interfere in the internal affairs of a host country, “show that ‘they have taken a step back from the slander against our country’ and ‘they will be more careful now’.
The president’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, added: “Our Foreign Ministry has already given the necessary response to these foreign missions and warned them against their unacceptable behavior,” in a statement on Twitter.
“Our government will not hesitate to take further steps to show that we will never compromise our national sovereignty. “
A mass expulsion of the ambassadors would have been an unprecedented development in relations between NATO allies, threatening to open the biggest diplomatic divide between Turkey and the West during Erdoğan’s nearly 20 years in power.
As the feud appears to be winding down, the incident has left a bitter taste for Ankara’s Western partners and reverses a year of overtures from the Turkish leader that appeared to be aimed at a rapprochement with Joe Biden and European states.
Washington and Ankara appeared to insist on Monday evening that they had not backed down, with a spokesperson for the US State Department saying the previous declaration on accession to Article 41 of the Vienna Convention was aimed at to stress that the actions of the American envoy were in accordance with the terms of the convention.
The Turkish lira – which has lost a quarter of its value in the past 12 months – hailed the news, falling from an all-time low of 9.85 per dollar to 9.607.
Tensions increased between Ankara and the United States, Canada, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and New Zealand over the weekend, when the Turkish president said he had ordered the envoys to be declared “persona non grata”, which may lead to formal expulsion.
The dramatic decision was sparked by a joint statement by the ambassadors calling on Turkey to comply with a 2019 European Court of Human Rights ruling in the high-profile case of Osman Kavala, a businessman and philanthropist who was remanded in custody for four years for terrorism.
Its next hearing is scheduled for November 26, and the Council of Europe has said it will start infringement proceedings against Turkey by the end of next month if Kavala is not released.
Monday’s fall came after a cabinet meeting in which ministers reportedly briefed the president on the economic dangers of escalating tensions with some of Turkey’s closest allies and trading partners.
Opposition figures have accused Erdoğan of trying to create an artificial diplomatic crisis that he could then blame for the plummeting value of the lire ahead of the elections due in 2023.
In televised comments on the meeting’s conclusion, the president said “Turkish justice does not take orders from anyone and is not under anyone’s command. Our intention is absolutely not to create a crisis but to protect our rights, our law, our honor, our interests and our sovereign rights.
Along with Kavala, thousands more have been arrested and tried in Turkey in connection with the 2013 Gezi Park protests, which were sparked by plans to redevelop Istanbul’s green space into a shopping mall, and the failed coup attempt of 2016.
Western observers and human rights groups say the country’s justice system has been gutted and armed against opponents and critics of Erdoğan.
In the joint statement that triggered the crisis, the ambassadors wrote that Kavala’s case “casts a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judicial system”.