Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Saturday he's declared U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield and nine other foreign envoys personae non gratae after they called for the release of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala this week, per AP.
Why it matters: This would be the biggest rift with the West since Erdoğan came to power 19 years ago if the envoys were forced to leave, Reuters notes. Seven of the ambassadors Erdoğan has threatened to expel represent NATO allies of Turkey.
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The threat comes weeks after Erdoğan accused a top Biden official of "supporting terrorism" for allying with Kurdish militias in Syria, which Turkey's government considers a national security threat. He has also demanded the U.S. pay $1.4 billion for removing Turkey from a stealth fighter jet program.
Driving the news: The embassies of the United States, Canada, France, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden wrote in the Oct. 18 statement that they "believe a just and speedy resolution to his case must be in line with Turkey’s international obligations and domestic laws."
"Noting the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter, we call for Turkey to secure his urgent release," the joint statement added.
Kavala has been held without a conviction since 2017. A court acquitted him in 2020 of charges related to nationwide anti-government demonstrations in 2013, but the decision was later overturned and his original charges were combined with separate charges involving a 2016 coup attempt, per AP.
What he's saying: “I gave the instruction to our foreign minister and said, ‘You will immediately handle the persona non grata declaration of these 10 ambassadors,’” Erdoğan said during a Saturday rally, according to AP.
"They will recognize, understand and know Turkey," he added. "The day they don’t know or understand Turkey, they will leave.”
Of note: Erdoğan previously announced plans to meet with President Biden at a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Rome next weekend, Reuters notes.
U.S. State Department spokesperson said it's aware of Erdoğan's reported comments and was "seeking clarity from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs," per Reuters.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from the State Department and further context.
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