Ex-PM Davutoğlu’s former right hand man detained in anti-Gülen probe

Ex-PM Davutoğlu’s former right hand man detained in anti-Gülen probe

Mesut Hasan Benli - ANKARA
Ex-PM Davutoğlu’s former right hand man detained in anti-Gülen probe Ambassador Gürcan Balık, who served as the chief advisor to former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu during the latter’s time as foreign minister at the time of various diplomatic crises, has been detained as part of Turkey’s post-coup attempt investigation. 

In 2013, during a U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York where Turkey was represented by then-President Abdullah Gül, Balık, in his capacity as the of chief the cabinet to the minister, played a key role in the arrangement of a meeting between Davutoğlu and the Pennsylvania-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. 

Ahead of Balık’s detention, two former Turkish ambassadors linked to the Fetullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) were detained Aug. 18. 

Tuncay Babalı, former ambassador to Canada, and Ali Fındık, former ambassador to Costa Rica, were detained in Ankara for suspected links to FETÖ, a police source said on Aug. 18.

In the aftermath of the July 15 failed coup attempt and as part of the government’s massive purge of civil servants believed to have links to FETÖ, the Foreign Ministry on July 26 dismissed two ambassadors and dozens of lower-level diplomats.

“Gürcan Balık and Tuncay Babalı have been dismissed. There are a few other ambassadors who we are still investigating. There is another ambassador who was on a different mission, and we will remove him told,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters on July 26, declining to identify that third ambassador. 

Balık and Babalı have not been on an active mission since early 2014, after the government began fighting against the Gülen movement in the wake of a massive corruption and fraud operation targeting government members in late 2013.

Gülenist infiltration of the Foreign Ministry took place in high numbers between 2007 and 2013. Both Babalı and Fındık served in the human resources department of the ministry during this period. Babalı was the head of the department between 2010 and 2012 before being appointed to Ottawa while Fındık was sent to Costa Rica as the Turkish envoy. 

The visit

Balık served as the chief foreign policy advisor to then-President Gül from August 2013 to July 2014. At the time, when controversy over Davutoğlu’s meeting with Gülen made headlines, Davutoğlu stressed that Gül had been kept informed of the visit to Pennsylvania.

However, Gül was clear that he had not been informed of the visit beforehand and said he only heard about it a week after the visit, when Balık informed him. 

In May 2015, veteran journalist Fehmi Koru quoted Gül as telling him: “My mind is clear. What’s more, as I was not informed of the issue beforehand and due to the uneasiness I shared with my close circle when I heard of it, it is not possible for me to forget about it.”

Costa Rica and UNESCO

The official website of Turkey’s Embassy in San Jose, in its Mission Chief History section, only refers to Fındık’s tenure, as he served there from September 2014 to November 2015.

As for Balık, his lengthy “curriculum vitae” was still on the official webpage of the Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO.

From September 2008 to December 2010, Balık served as the Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers, Head of Department. From December 2010 to February 2011 he served as Deputy Director of Directorate General for International Law. From February 2011 to December 2012 he served as Minister Plenipotentiary and Special Advisor to the Minister.

In June 2013, as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Balık presented his accreditation letter to the Director-General of UNESCO.