Turkish President Tayyip Erodgan on Saturday said he ordered the foreign ministry to expel 10 envoys from Western countries. If carried out, that would mark the deepest diplomatic rift with the West during his 19 years in office.
“I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: these 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at once. You will sort it out immediately.”
Erdogan is fuming because the envoys have called for the release of Osman Kavala. The philanthropist denies charges that he financed nationwide protests and was involved in a failed coup. He has been in prison for four years. Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.
Erdogan’s remarks come just days after the ambassadors of the United States, France, Germany, and seven other countries issued a joint statement calling for Kavala’s “urgent release.” They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Twitter: "The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala."
The U.S., German and French embassies, the White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Erdogan has previously said he plans to meet U.S. President Joe Biden at the G20 summit in Rome next weekend.