An annual envoys’ conference to review foreign policy in Ankara has been transformed into a platform for the government to charge ambassadors with the task of “telling the world the truth” about Turkey’s ongoing political crisis, in an effort to improve its damaged image overseas.
Ambassadors heard little about actual foreign policy matters and did not have much time to discuss key issues, like Syria, the EU process, or other very important developments in the Middle East that could affect Turkey’s immediate future. Instead, were told that a corruption and graft operation launched last month was a plot against the government orchestrated by the Fethullah Gulen community. They have thus been asked to explain this “truth” to their counterparts in their host countries.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinch and Interior Minister Efkan Ala explained in detail how the plot was carried out by an “illegal gang” within the state, without directly naming the Gülen community, often known as the Hizmet Movement. In previous years they had told ambassadors to remain close to schools belonging to the same group that operate in various countries.
The harshest statements about the Gülen community and the clearest assignment to the ambassadors came from Erdogan, in a long address to the conference given on Jan. 15.
“A very important task falls on your shoulders. We expect you to exert more effort to defeat this treacherous plot targeting Turkey by telling your counterparts the truth. I request you to underline that what’s going on is not a corruption operation, but a coup [against the government] in the form of a corruption operation,” the prime minister said.
The real task of informing the international community about these issues fell on the shoulders of ambassadors, he said, claiming that recent events were aimed at “stopping Turkey’s progress.”
Instead of defending his government’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Syria and other Middle Eastern affairs, Erdo?an devoted nearly all of his speech to the Dec. 17 probe.
Ambassadors heard almost the same line from Ala, who was recently appointed after his predecessor resigned following his son's arrest as part of the corruption and graft probe.
“I do not have the heart to say this, but Turkey encounters various coup attempts whenever it reaches significant economic achievements,” Ala said.
Ambassadors should tell their colleagues in foreign capitals “the truth” about recent developments in Turkey, he added.
“Through the peace process, our expectation from you is to make attempts to end international disinformation and speak about democratization in Turkey,” he said, referring to the ongoing bid to solve the decades-long Kurdish problem.
As the deputy prime minister responsible for press and information, Bülent Ar?nç also dwelled on how ambassadors could help in changing the perceptions of the international community and the media, especially in the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests and amid the ongoing political crisis.
“Our friends abroad and our ambassadors might observe whether there is a plot aimed at tarnishing Turkey’s image. What should we do against such a perception? Please inform us,” Arinch said to the gathered ambassadors.