Hürriyet, Turkey
May 2 2009

New Turkish foreign minister says seeks greater regional role


ANKARA - Turkey's new foreign minister said on Saturday he wants the
country to play a bigger role in the Middle East and Balkans but its
relations with the West would continue to be its main foreign policy
focus.

Middle East expert Ahmet Davutoglu was appointed as Turkey's new
foreign minister on Friday in the largest cabinet change since the
Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP, first swept to
power in 2002.

Davutoglu, a respected but controversial diplomat who expanded
Turkey's foreign policy beyond its traditional Western-orientated
focus, takes charge as the country seeks to improve regional security,
from Armenia to Iraq and Iran.

Taking office on Saturday from Ali Babacan, who was named as the new
deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, Davutoglu said Turkey
now had a stronger foreign policy vision towards the Middle East,
Balkans and the Caucasus region.

"It has to take on the role of an order-instituting country in all
these regions," Davutoglu said.

"Turkey is no longer a country which only reacts to crises, but
notices the crises before their emergence and intervenes in the crises
effectively and gives shape to the order of its surrounding region."

Davutoglu, who has assumed an active role in NATO member Turkey's
Middle East mediation efforts between Israel and Arab countries and in
solving conflicts in the neighboring Caucasus, said relations with the
West would remain Turkey's main focus.

"The European Union and NATO are the most important pillars of the
policy of setting a balance between security and freedom," he said.

Turkey began EU membership negotiations in 2005 but progress has since
largely ground to a halt because of disagreements over the divided
island of Cyprus and strong opposition in some members like France and
Austria.