Turkish president labels Finnish ambassador, nine other diplomats "undesirables"

In international diplomacy, the use of the term is usually followed by expulsion from the country.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Image: Ozan Kose / AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has instructed his foreign ministry to declare ten diplomats — including Finland's ambassador to the country — to be "persona non grata" or "undesirable persons".

The use of the term in international diplomacy is usually the first step towards expulsion.

"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," news agency Reuters reported (siirryt toiseen palveluun) Erdoğan said in a speech in the city of Eskisehir in northwest Turkey on Saturday.

Earlier this week, Erdoğan threatened to expel the ten ambassadors after they jointly issued a petition demanding the immediate release of Turkish philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala. Kavala has been in jail for years, without being convicted.

The ten ambassadors had previously been summoned to Turkey's foreign ministry to explain the statement, which called for a "just and speedy resolution to Kavala's case".

In addition to the Finnish ambassador, the ambassadors of Germany, the United States, France, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and New Zealand are now also facing expulsion.

Diplomatic relations between Finland and Turkey have been cordial, so the expulsion of the ambassador would be exceptional in the history of relations between the two countries.

Kavala was acquitted in February 2020 of charges related to protests in Gezi Park in Istanbul in 2013. However, that ruling was overturned earlier this year and the charge was combined with another case related to a coup attempt in 2016.

Kavala has denied the charges and his next appearance in court is scheduled for 26 November.