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Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

This is the very definition of Erdogan’s, and Davutoglu’s, ambitions.

In the recent batch of State Department cables disclosed by WikiLeaks, one scholar was quoted as anointing the Turkish foreign minister “Turkey’s Kissinger,” while in 2004 a secondhand source was quoted as calling him “exceptionally dangerous.” But his abilities, and his worldview, matter because of the country whose diplomacy he drives: an Islamic democracy, a developing nation with a booming economy, a member of NATO with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a canny, forward-thinking populist who has drastically altered Turkish politics. Erdogan and Davutoglu share a grand vision: a renascent Turkey, expanding to fill a bygone Ottoman imperial space.

Davutoglu is seen as a champion of Turkish greatness.

Henri Barkey, a Turkey scholar at Lehigh University, pronounces his book “Strategic Depth” as“mumbo jumbo,” adding that Davutoglu “thinks of himself as God”.

Foreign Policy magazine ranked him No. 7 in its recent list of “100 Global Thinkers,” writing that under his leadership, “Turkey has assumed an international role not matched since a sultan sat in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace.”

Davutoğlu is generally linked to the notion of Turkish neo-Ottomanism, which favours a commonwealth with its neighbours and old Ottoman connections. Although his foreign policies have been regarded as neo-Ottomanist by Western and especially U.S. media, Davutoğlu does not accept such a characterization.

One of Davutoglu’s greatest diplomatic achievements was the creation of a visa-free zone linking Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, thus reconstituting part of the old Ottoman space.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The victory of the moderate Islamist AK party in the 2002 parliamentary elections was a seismic event in Turkey, culturally as well as politically. Turkey had been an aggressively secular republic since its establishment in 1923; Turkey’s Westernized intellectuals, living in the coastal cities, especially Istanbul, looked upon the Islamists as bumpkins from the Anatolian hinterland. “These people came out of nowhere,” as Candar puts it.

On the flight home from Brussels, where he conferred privately with Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and met with his European counterparts, Davutoglu was in an ebullient mood. He feels the wind of history filling his sails. Turkey, the crossroads of civilizations, the land where East and West, North and South, converge, is pointing the way to the world’s future. “Turkey is the litmus test of globalization,” he told me. “Success for Turkey will mean the success of globalization.” The world, as Davutoglu likes to say, expects great things from Turkey.

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