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Former ambassador: Turkish Foreign Ministry turned into AKP’s ideological backyard

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Turkey’s former ambassador to the US Namık Tan has said the foreign ministry has lost significant prestige and influence under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and has turned into the party’s ideological backyard, the T24 news website reported.

In an exclusive interview with T24, Tan said today’s foreign ministry functions very differently from the way it did in the past.

“In my time, foreign policy was set not by a political party but by the common wisdom of the institutions making up the state. … Now, the foreign ministry has been completely excluded from the setting of foreign policy and to a great extent from its implementation. What is worse is that the ministry is moving further away from professionalism. It has turned into the ideological backyard of a political party. It has almost no professional influence or prestige left,” said Tan.

According to Tan, the Turkish Foreign Ministry no longer has any say over the  determination of foreign policy and is even excluded from it and that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the only decision-maker in foreign policy issues just as he is in other areas.

“A foreign policy set by one person is not predictable. It is risky and not trustworthy. It causes your real friends and allies to leave you. You can’t be saved from being left alone,” said Tan, adding that if the political leaders in the country had listened to the assessments and suggestions of experienced diplomats at the foreign ministry, they would have taken the necessary steps to prevent the country from being left alone in its relations with foreign countries.

The AKP has been accused by many of eroding the prestige of state institutions not only by filling them with their cronies who are not appointed on merit-based criteria but also by expelling those who don’t act in line with AKP policies.

The Turkish government removed thousands of diplomats from their posts in the aftermath of a coup attempt under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. They have been replaced by many former AKP lawmakers and politicians such as former minister Egemen Bağış and former AKP deputy chairman Şaban Dişli. These politicians have been appointed as ambassadors, attachés and undersecretaries over the past years in a move that attracted widespread criticism because only career diplomats would have been appointed to these posts in the past.

Tan said he is not against the appointment of politicians as diplomats in principle; however, he said these appointments should be made based on competence and the qualifications of the candidates and not out of ideological motivations.

When asked about the new diplomats who are criticized for their poor English, Tan said problems at Turkey’s foreign ministry run far deeper than diplomats who can’t speak English.

He said dramatic changes have taken place in Turkish foreign policy over the past 10 years and that the country has gone from the appearance of a model, democratic, Islamic nation to an authoritarian one that has moved away from the West and prioritized hostility toward the West, promoting conspiracy theories.

The former ambassador said the AKP government has begun to rule the country with a populist mentality in a bid to get public support and use the public’s problems in its favor.

Tan, who served in various posts at the ministry during his career, was the Turkish ambassador to the United States between February 2010 and March 2014, after which he went into retirement.

He frequently voices criticism of the AKP government and its foreign policy decisions.

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