The Newsweek weekly published an article about Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in its recent edition.

 

"Expect to hear a lot more of the name Ahmet Davutoglu. The former university professor who became Turkey's foreign minister last year is the man behind Ankara's landmark new diplomatic outreach, including a previously unimaginable rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia and a new warmth with Syria," the weekly said.

"Some Western analysts are dismayed at these developments, interpreting them as a sign that Turkey is turning East at the expense of the West. The mild-mannered Davutoglu typically gets angry at these suggestions, saying these comments come from those who begrudge Turkey its expanding role in the region," it said.

The Newsweek wrote that Davutoglu was no stranger to Turkish politics and that he began serving as chief foreign-policy adviser to the ruling AK Party in 2002. "He remains something of a cipher, even in his home country," it said.

The weekly also published some of the highlights about Davutoglu:

"- Davutoglu risked the deadly Izmit earthquake to save the manuscript of his signature book, Strategic Depth: Turkey's International Position, which lays out the conceptual framework for what he now calls his "zero problems with neighbors"policy. When the shaking started on August 17, 1999, he managed to flee his endangered Istanbul home unharmed?but then ignored warnings of aftershocks to dash back into the house and eject the computer disk containing his years of work. Now in its 30th printing, the book brought him national and international recognition.

The foreign minister is a somewhat reluctant politician. After Turkey's ruling AK Party won the elections of 2002, he turned down requests to serve in the government and opted instead to continue his university work while serving as an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Five years later, he was on the verge of a full-time return to academia when PKK attacked the Daglica military post in Turkey's eastern city of Hakkari, killing 13 soldiers. "I cannot leave now," Davutoglu told his inner circle. Instead, he stayed on to take up the position of foreign minister and facilitate recent agreements aimed at granting long-denied rights to the Kurdish minority and ending two decades of attacks by the PKK.

The peripatetic minister went to 13 countries in October alone, raising Turkey's diplomatic profile to its highest level in years. Indeed, Davutoglu won unprecedented praise in Arabic media, like the London-based l-Hayat newspaper, where a columnist begged the foreign minister to help solve Lebanon's problems as well. "You carry ideas, aspirations, solutions, and medicine in your luggage," wrote the columnist. "You are the window to the future."

Davutoglu may be known for his temperate demeanor, but he has little patience with Ankara's political elites and their unassertive approach to diplomacy. "These rootless elites are conditioned to not being noticed and not taking initiative rather than coming to the front and being decisive during critical periods," he wrote in an uncharacteristically sharp tone in Strategic Depth. "They think of being passive as a safer and risk-free policy." These criticisms, writes Bilgici in Newsweek Turkiye, are a beginner's guide to understanding Davutoglu and his policy. The second pointer to his character: the minister's constant use?and embodiment?of the term "self-confidence."

Davutoglu is also known for his work ethic and self discipline. A family friend told Newsweek Turkiye that, while working on his book, the professor once spent three straight days without leaving his chair. A former student says Davutoglu believes that sleeping eight hours a night is a luxury. "We do not have the right to sleep this much," he frequently told the student.

Davutoglu's conscientiousness manifested itself at a relatively early age. As a high-school student at the prestigious Istanbul High School for Boys, he presented his teachers with ambitious reading lists of dense philosophical and scientific works that he thought would serve him well in the future. His instructors advised him and his friends to go out and play ball for a while instead. Davutoglu took the advice to heart; even after he'd become a professor, he continued to play soccer with his students (as a highly regarded forward), right up until he was appointed foreign minister.

While honing his soccer prowess, Davutoglu was refining his language and academic skills too. In addition to the German learned in high school, he took all-English programs to graduate from the economics and political sciences department of Bogazici University. He learned Arabic while studying on a scholarship in Jordan, worked on his doctoral thesis at Cairo University, and learned Bahasa Malaysia while a professor at Malaysia's International Islamic University. His thesis, a comparative analysis between Western and Islamic political theories and /images, was published in 1993 by American University Press with the title Alternative Paradigms: The Impact of Islamic and Western Weltanschauungs on Political Theory. Davutoglu's postdoctoral work included critiques of the theories of Samuel Huntington (clash of civilizations) and Francis Fukuyama (end of history).

Colleagues say that Davutoglu's oratorical skills are equal to his writing ability. "There is no one the minister cannot make drop their guard in 10 minutes," one high-ranking team member told Newsweek Turkiye. One example: when Ankara refused to allow U.S.-led forces cross Turkish territory for the 2003 invasion into Iraq, a local Jewish leader came over to read Davutoglu the riot act. The visitor initially said he could only stay 10 minutes?partly because he needed to prepare for a fast the following day?but ended up spending three hours with Davutoglu after being won over by the minister's erudite discourse about Jewish culture, history, and the background to the upcoming fast. Next time, the Jewish leader said, he'd like to stay for the day."

"Davutoglu is not without his critics, who have accused him of double standards for criticizing Israel's actions in Gaza while failing to condemn the approach of a fellow Muslim?Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir?in Darfur. But even those who don't support him see him as a statesman who is both a thinker and a doer. And right now, he's the talk of more than just Ankara," the Newsweek added.

AA