Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday backed down from his threat to expel 10 Western ambassadors over their joint statement of support for a jailed civil society leader.
Erdogan said during the weekend he had ordered the envoys to be declared persona non grata for seeking the release of prominent philanthropist Osman Kavala, 64, detained for four years on charges of financing protests and involvement in an attempted coup.
Erdogan said the new statement “shows they have taken a step back from the slander against our country”, adding: “They will be more careful now.”
The envoys from Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the US called last week for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”.
The 10 ambassadors represent NATO allies, trade partners, and members of the European Union. Ankara is an EU candidate country, but membership talks have been practically frozen for years.
“The Turkish judiciary doesn’t take orders from anyone, and is not under anyone’s command,” Erdogan said in televised comments. “Our intention is absolutely not to create a crisis but to protect our law, honour, interests and our sovereign rights.”
Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s communications director, later warned Ankara would not refrain from taking further action.
“Our government will not shy away from any further steps to show that we will never compromise our national sovereignty,” he added on Twitter.