An iftar night at AKP headquarters

An iftar night at AKP headquarters

More than 200 guests -- ambassadors, media representatives, ministers -- filled the terrace of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) modern premises late Monday for the fifth traditional fast-breaking dinner, organized by Ömer Çelik, the deputy leader responsible for foreign affairs.

It was indeed a good idea to hold the dinner on the terrace rather than in the hall on the ground floor as in previous years. The food and service could have been better but there nothing could have topped the performances of Le Trio Joubran, a Palestinian oud trio consisting of three brothers from the city of Nazareth, and Serkan Çağrı, a well-known clarinet player.

Apart from the ambassadors, Mehmet Görmez, head of the Directorate for Religious Affairs, Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva, spiritual head of the Syriac Orthodox community Yusuf Çetin, and acting Armenian Patriarch Episkopos Aram Ateşyan were also present at the dinner.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan greeted all of the invitees personally, in a relaxed mood. He sat around the same table with the ambassadors of the United States, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan and Çelik, and did not leave the dinner before the shows ended. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sat between the ambassadors of Egypt and France, but exchanged views with all of the other diplomats all night long.

The short opening speech came from Çelik, the host for the night, who underlined that the party’s headquarters was not just a place where politics dominate. “This is a place where fundamental problems of humanity are also addressed. We are trying to adopt a vision for peace, freedom and justice beyond the known abilities of diplomacy and politics,” he said.

Uzbek Ambassador Ulfat Kadyrov delivered a speech on behalf of the invitees, as the dean of the ambassadors in the absence of his Kuwaiti colleague. As he spoke highly of Erdoğan and of the AKP in his very good Turkish, the ambassador said, “Turkey will be a very bright country in the future, because it is now ruled by this current government, by these ministers and by the AK Party.”

The two countries were not on good terms for more than a decade, because Uzbekistan would not allow the opening of Fethullah Gülen schools in its territories, and efforts for reconciliation had proved unsuccessful until now. Yet the tone the Uzbek Ambassador used in his speech gave the impression that progess has been made toward mending fences between the two administrations.

The floor was given to Prime Minister Erdoğan, who responded to criticisms of his government’s foreign policy. He explained that this foreign policy is human-centered and conscience-centered, and called on the international community to stand united against crimes against humanity. This should not be translated as Turkey’s having ambitions to intervene in the domestic affairs of other countries, he stressed, but said “Turkey will not remain unresponsive to the humanitarian crisis in its near and far neighborhood. Syria would not be in such situation if Bashar al-Assad had listened listen to us.”

In the last part of his speech, he again complained about some countries’ tolerance towards terrorists and accused them of trying to change Turkish internal and external policies by supporting terrorist organizations. Many ambassadors – mostly European -- did not share many of Erdoğan’s views, but left the dinner satisfied, with wishes to meet again next year.