Foreign Ministry acting as ideological arm of AKP, says former spokesperson

Former spokesperson for the Turkish Foreign Ministry Namık Tan has said that the Ministry is no longer an independent diplomatic body but rather an arm of the ruling Justice and Development (AKP).

Duvar English

In an interview with daily T24, former Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Namık Tan has accused the ministry of lacking ideological independence from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). In practice, he said, the body only follows the orders of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

“The Foreign Ministry looks like the ideological commissariat of a political party,” he said. "Many people, including former ministers from the ruling party, deputies, candidates, and their relatives, are ambassadors.”

Tan first entered the Foreign Service in 1982 and worked in the Moscow and Abu Dhabi embassies. He then was the chief clerk for the Washington embassy from 1991-1995 and worked as undersecretary in the Ministry between 1997-2001.

During Abdullah Gül’s Presidential term beginning in 2007, he served as spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry and was appointed ambassador to Washington from 2010-2014, when Erdoğan became President. 

Though he indicated that political appointments for ambassadorships were common around the world, he said that the situation in Turkey is different. The Foreign Ministry has become an extension of President Erdoğan’s system of one-man-rule.

“Foreign policy determined and carried out with personal reason is not reliable,” he said.

The problem, Tan says, runs deeper than unqualified, personal diplomatic appointments. He says that under the current government, “Turkey has transformed from a model democratic Islamic country to a country with authoritarian rule, and a state that is gradually moving away from its Western orientation, on the contrary, prioritizing anti-Western and conspiracy mentality.” He says that this has damaged Turkey’s standing in the world order, which will take years to rebuild.

He says that in the face of increasingly polarized politics under the AKP, “prejudice and bigotry” began to play a decisive role in diplomacy. Now, as a result of the ever-increasing nationalism and populism of the AKP, the ministry functions as an extension of the party. 

“Populism has led to a growing alienation from merit and realism in foreign policy. Decisions were made on the ideological ground and taking into account the party's interests,” Tan said.

Tan argues that diplomatic appointments should be made based on merit, not connections. The responsibility and weight imbued in a diplomatic posting are not things to be taken lightly - the slightest mistake, he says, could ruin relations between countries.

The effects of poor foreign policy can be seen in Turkey’s position in the world today, he says. By making impulsive, personal, ideological decisions based more on domestic policy than global order, Turkey has alienated itself.

"One of the biggest mistakes is to make foreign policy according to domestic politics, the feelings and support of the grassroots, and ideological motives. Ideology-based diplomacy, over time, makes you a party to all problems. You become increasingly lonely, and you begin to lose friends and allies, just as Turkey is experiencing today,” he said.