The 10 western ambassadors who called for the release philanthropist Osman Kavala managed to implement a temporary solution, at the last minute, to avoid being declared “persona non grata” by President Erdogan. Western powers confirmed their commitment to Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, which states that NATO powers should not interfere with the sovereignty of allied states, while continuing to condemn Erdogan’s actions.
HOWEVER, THE CRISIS IS NOT OVER.
The problem that prompted the 10 ambassadors to publish their statement remains in place: •sman Kavala remains in prison, despite the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decision to release him.
The next phase of the crisis is likely to happen at the end of November. This issue will again be discussed at the Council of Ministers meeting at the Council of Europe between November 30 and December 4. The Council operates under the umbrella of the ECtHR and Turkey is one of its founding members. If Kavala is not released by the time the meeting begins, the CoE will trigger a sanction process, which could lead to Turkey’s expulsion from the Council of Europe.
WHO STEPPED BACK?
The issue of “which side took a step back” is also controversial within the scope of the temporary diplomatic solution.
This solution was reached after the U.S. Embassy in Ankara made a second statement on Twitter – the same platform where the 10 Ambassadors made the statement about Kavala. In its second statement, citing the Vienna convention, the U.S. Embassy confirmed Erdogan’s stance that “they interfered in our internal affairs.” Thus, it aimed to appease the reaction of the AK Party government.
There was extensive communication between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the signatory Embassies, in particular with the U.S. Embassy and in relevant capitals, regarding whether the second statement should be an extended text or a single sentence. Ankara insisted on a single sentence. They were worried that if the statement was long, new interpretations and new conflicts could emerge. The declaration was shaped accordingly.
In the statement, the U.S. Embassy said it “confirmed” that it would act in accordance with Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, which regulates diplomatic relations and stipulates that Ambassadors should not interfere in the internal affairs of the country where they serve. The sentence was approved by Ankara.
The U.S. Embassy included both English and Turkish versions of the one-sentence statement on its Twitter account. In Turkish, it wrote that it would comply with the Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, but the use of the word “maintain” as a translation of “surdurmek” (continue) caught the attention of some readers.
The difference between the two texts has created a great debate. In the language of diplomacy, not just the words, even the commas are important, too. Some people have deduced that by using the word “maintain” in the English text (rather than “continue”), the U.S. Embassy indicated that it had already complied with Article 41 of the Vienna Convention with the first statement and that it would continue to do so.
The real reason for the difference between the Turkish and English texts was revealed when U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that “the first published Kavala statement is already in compliance with Article 41” right after the statement was published on Twitter. The U.S. Embassy, which looks like it has taken a “step back” in the Turkish statement, expressed with a turn of phrase in the English statement that it “stands behind the first statement,” the very statement that caused Erdogan to react.
However, it is clear that both sides agreed that neither the interlocutor countries nor the AK Party government was interested in expanding the matter. The crisis was put on ice – so to speak – until the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe meeting at the end of November. While the Western press covered the crisis with the headline, “Erdogan took a step back,” the pro-government press in Turkey portrayed the event as “Erdogan made the ambassadors take a step back.”
Ankara must think that gratefulness to the president could not be achieved with domestic politics alone – thanks to this international incident, the “thanks to President Erdogan” chapter has begun.
The interesting thing is what while the texts of the Turkish and English statements published by the U.S. and other Western allies were different, all of the messages on social media saying “thanks” to Erdogan for solving the crisis were the same. These messages, shared by prominent figures and heads of national organizations on Twitter, were all exactly the same. It made people ask: was this “thank you” prepared somewhere, then distributed to prominent figures to be shared?
THE IMPORTANCE OF DIPLOMACY
The incident with the 10 ambassadors, beginning with the “freedom for Kavala” statement and escalating to the “persona non grata crisis,” also showed the importance of diplomacy.
It showed that even seemingly intractable issues can be overcome when foreign policy is left to diplomats who are experts in diplomacy, rather than to the will of a single person. It is well-known that trying to solve all issues with hostile statements, reconnaissance operations, and direct military action has caused Turkey trouble in foreign policy. It’s time to leave the job to the professionals.
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