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Davutoglu picks up and runs with ‘dangerous man’ moniker

One of the WikiLeaked cables refers to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as an "exceptionally dangerous" Islamist influence on the Turkish government. That’s a label that the foreign minister embraces — with a slight modification. "I am extremely dangerous, yes — for those who want to have instability in our region," Davutoglu told a gathering ...

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

One of the WikiLeaked cables refers to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as an "exceptionally dangerous" Islamist influence on the Turkish government. That’s a label that the foreign minister embraces — with a slight modification.

"I am extremely dangerous, yes — for those who want to have instability in our region," Davutoglu told a gathering of journalists in Washington this morning. "I am extremely dangerous for those who want to create new tensions."

Davutoglu went on to note the strong relations that Turkey enjoyed with its neighbors. "If you go to the Balkans, the Middle East, to Serbia, with whom we’ve had very critical relations in the past, you can see that we have excellent relations. Even for the Israelis… you can go and ask to anyone around Turkey whether I am extremely dangerous or not."

The Turkish foreign minister said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "expressed her apologies and deep regret" for the WikiLeaks document dump, and brushed aside suggestions that the release would harm U.S.-Turkish relations. "These are documents based on the observations of individuals, rather than the position of the United States as a state," he said. "Many observations can come from different capitals; it doesn’t necessarily reflect the ideas, opinions, or positions of the American administration."

Davutoglu also pushed back against concerns expressed in one of the cables that he was pursuing a "neo-Ottoman" foreign policy meant to re-establish Turkish dominion over the Balkans and the Middle East. One cable in particular expressed astonishment at a speech Davutoglu delivered in Sarajevo in October 2009, where he referred to the 16th century — when the region was under the dominion of the Ottomans — as "the golden age of the Balkans." He waxed nostalgic about the success of the Balkans during that time, pledging to "restore this Balkans."

To Davutoglu, however, his remarks were little more than a recognition of Turkey’s shared past with the region — he compared them to French expressions of solidarity with other francophone countries, or Britain’s ties to the sovereign countries within the British commonwealth. "We are referring to historical facts… this is something very natural," he said. "We are a Turkish republic and a modern nation-state based on the norms of international law… there is no hegemony or imperial type of ambition [in Turkish foreign policy."

But the foreign minister didn’t apologize for the newly assertive role Turkey was playing in international affairs under his watch. "Countries like Turkey — right at the center of all events and at the center of geopolitics — will have a western orientation, an eastern orientation, a northern orientation, a southern orientation," he said. "We are self-confident: We know what we are doing, and we have a vision for our country."