Turkish Officials Seek to Avoid Expulsion of Western Envoys

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration is weighing options to avoid formally designating ambassadors from 10 countries, including the U.S. and Germany, personae non gratae, after the Turkish president risked a major rift by describing them as no longer welcome.

Senior advisers have briefed the presidency on the possible fallout on Turkey’s economy and the lira, recommending the government not take a step that would in effect result in the envoys being ordered out, according to officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

The spat flared after the ambassadors demanded the release of government critic who has been jailed for four years in a case that’s become a test of the independence of Turkey’s judiciary and the rule of law in the eyes of some foreign governments.

Holding back on a formal designation would avoid a further deterioration in ties with the U.S. and Germany, Turkey’s largest trade partner, officials briefed Erdogan’s office. Those deliberations have so far prevented the Foreign Ministry from making an official announcement on the envoys, the officials said, asking not to be identified discussing private meetings .

“I gave the necessary orders and told our Foreign Ministry to quickly take care of declaring these 10 ambassadors personae non gratae,” he said in a televised speech.

The absence of a formal decision has left the U.S., Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Norway and New Zealand in the dark over the fate of their ambassadors in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.

A U.S. official said the government in Washington is aware of Erdogan’s speech and is seeking clarification from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.

No meeting has been confirmed yet and a new diplomatic crisis over the diplomats — should they be expelled — will hardly make it easier for Erdogan to get the face time he needs to negotiate solutions to earlier problems plaguing bilateral ties.

Erdogan wants to lobby Biden to allow Ankara to buy dozens of American warplanes, in a bid to overcome Washington’s resistance to major arms deals with Turkey following its controversial purchase of Russian air defenses.