The U.S. government stands by the commitments to human rights made in an Oct. 18 statement calling for the release of Turkish philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala, the State Department said on Monday.
Asked if the United States had engaged in a climbdown to end a diplomatic row over the statement, which its ambassador to Turkey made jointly with nine other Western envoys, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Washington was committed to promoting human rights around the world.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday that he had instructed his foreign ministry to declare the envoys as persona non grata for demanding Kavala’s release. His comments made headlines across the world and led to sharp losses for the Turkish lira on Monday on concern that Turkey was straying further from its Western and NATO orbit. The lira dropped to a record low of 9.85 per dollar before recovering.
On Monday, the U.S. government put out a statement saying it would adhere to article 41 of the Vienna Convention, which pledges non-interference in another country’s internal affairs.
“What we issued was a statement to underscore that the statement that we put out on October 18th was consistent with Article 41 of Vienna Convention,” Price said.
Asked if he agreed with comments by Erdoğan on Monday that the United States and other governments, faced with the threat of the expulsions, had climbed down on the issue, Price said:
“The principles that we have put forward in the context of Turkey and also around the world – those are principles that we are committed to,” he said. “This commitment is unwavering and we will continue to engage with Turkey as consistent with Article 41.”
Kavala has remained behind bars for four years, accused of espionage and plotting to overthrow the government by organising the 2013 Gezi Park demonstration in Istanbul, which ballooned into nationwide protests against Erdoğan’s government. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has called on the Turkish courts to release him, citing laws they pledged to adhere to.
When asked if the United States would continue to call on Turkey to abide by ECHR decisions in the case of Kavala, Price said the joint statement was made a week ago and Washington was “committed to human rights in the context of Turkey as we are anywhere else around the globe”.
“The principles, the commitments that are in that statement, those are universal principles and commitments that the United States shares – that we share in this case with the nine other signatories,” he said.