Erdoğan bids farewell and marks ‘new beginning’ with envoys at traditional iftar dinner
Serkan DEMİRTAŞ ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
‘It will perhaps be my last meeting with you as the prime minister in the event of my election as the president. But we will continue to come together on all occasions,’ Erdoğan tells envoys in the dinner. AA Photo AA photo AA PhotoEnvoys from diplomatic missions represented in Ankara, mostly chargé d’affairs, along with representatives of various religious groups and Ankara bureau chiefs of selected media outlets, were gathered at the headquarters of Justice and Development Party (AKP) late on July 15 for the seventh traditional iftar dinner. They were there to mark - in all probability - their final meeting with AKP chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan under his capacity as the prime minister.
“It will perhaps be my last meeting with you as the prime minister in the event of my election as the president. But we will continue to come together on all occasions to discuss regional and global issues as well as our bilateral relations with you,” Erdoğan said in his address. “I would like take this occasion that marks a farewell, but at the same time a new beginning, to thank you all for your cooperation and contributions.”
To the contrary of his harsh and sometimes aggressive image over foreign policy matters, Erdoğan is described as gentle and soft-spoken politician by diplomats familiar with his “behind-closed-doors” manner toward foreign guests. Although his insistent efforts to encourage foreign ambassadors to have at least three children can sometimes be annoying, many find Erdoğan’s approach humoristic and sympathetic.
One other point that many ambassadors in Ankara agree on is that Erdoğan will win the presidential elections in either the first or the second round. Some European diplomats believe that a victory in the second round would be much better - first to avoid a full, clear victory and second to allow Kurdish political groups to increase their hand against the government in the peace process.
A diplomat who attended the iftar meal told the Hürriyet Daily News that they had no doubt Erdoğan would become the next president. “The next question, of course, is who will be the prime minister?” the diplomat asked, echoing his colleagues’ curiosity.
Erdoğan sat Palestinian Ambassador to Turkey Nabil Maaroof to his left at the table, in a bid to display his attention to what’s going on in Palestine. He also and hosted Vatican Ambassador to Turkey Antonio Lucibello as the dean of the ambassadors at the meal. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Yasin Aktay, the head of the AKP’s external relations department, Canadian Ambassador to Turkey John Holmes and Azerbaijani Ambassador Faik Bagirov were also sitting around the same table as Erdoğan.
As many ambassadors are currently on leave, a number of countries were represented at the level of chargé d’affairs.
Due to political infringements, Syrian, Israeli and Egyptian diplomats were not invited to the iftar dinner of the AKP, just like last year. However, one difference from last year was the implementation of a strict accreditation procedure for the media that prevented the participation of media outlets affiliated with the Fethullah Gülen community.
Erdoğan’s foreign policy messages
Recalling that the Turkish people would directly elect the president for the first time on Aug. 10, Erdoğan described the upcoming elections as a “milestone” in Turkey’s long march to democracy.
“Turkey will have the experience of [being ruled by] an elected president and an elected prime minister. No one should doubt that our foreign policy, democracy, economy and societal peace will be strengthened in the event of my election. As it used to be, Turkey will continue in its strongest way to defend peace, justice and solidarity in the country, in the region and in the world,” he said.
On Iraq, Erdoğan recalled that Turkey had urged its allies that the situation could be worsened, but it was not listened too. He warned that the “fire in Iraq” could transform into a larger sectarian conflict and said this would not only have regional but also global effects.
On Ukraine, the prime minister repeated that Turkey defended the territorial integrity and political unity of Ukraine and urged the establishment of direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia to find a solution. The most important aspect for Turkey is the situation of the Crimean Tatars, whose rights and demands have been overshadowed throughout the crisis, he added.
On the EU, he called on the current Italian term presidency to provide momentum to the negotiations by opening a negotiation chapter, and called on EU countries to pressure Greek Cyprus to accelerate ongoing reunification talks.