Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has argued that addressing an Iraqi Kurdish leader in the Kurdish language should be considered a requirement of diplomatic courtesy as well as customary practice.
During deliberations over the Foreign Ministry’s budget at Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission early Friday morning, Davutoğlu responded to questions from deputies as he was criticized for addressing Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani as “Kak Massoud” -- a respectful but affectionate title in Kurdish – during Barzani’s official visit to Ankara in June.
Saying that his family’s origins are from a Turkmen tribe, Davutoğlu said Turkmens show courtesy towards their guests in every situation. “Kurdish is one of the languages for which we should have respect, and it is also a language that is used by a considerable part of our people. I addressed Massoud Barzani as ‘Kak.’ This means ‘mister.’ This respect is part of our culture. My duty is not to create enemies for Turkey, but to create friends,” Davutoğlu explained.
In June, Barzani, the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, paid his first visit to Turkey as regional president. Barzani had last visited Turkey in April 2004, when he held the rotating presidency of the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council. “I have observed from Kak Massoud both a hospitality -- which reflects a rooted family tradition -- and a strong political will on the issue of building a joint future with Turkey,” Davutoğlu had said at a joint press conference with Barzani during the visit, referring to the way he had been treated by Barzani during his visit to Arbil in late October.
During deliberations at the parliamentary commission, several deputies from opposition parties delivered speeches, mostly criticizing the government’s foreign policy moves. Mustafa Özyürek, the İstanbul deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), stated that Davutoğlu had represented the nation in an “assertive” way, displaying Turkey as “a country that maintains world order.” “Being assertive is good, but one should also be realistic,” Özyürek said.
The foreign minister disagreed with Özyürek’s argument. “Nations living in this geography have to be assertive; otherwise, they cannot maintain their existence,” Davutoğlu said, adding that was why Turkey had to be assertive, too.
While setting targets in foreign policy, the government is assertive, yet while implementing these policies on the ground, the government is realistic, Davutoğlu responded. “If we said something assertive and didn’t follow up, then you are right. But if we yielded results, this should be appreciated. Realism exists on the ground and assertiveness exists in mentality,” Davutoğlu said.
The minister also responded to criticism that the government’s foreign policy has been inspired by an ideology of “neo-Ottomanism,” suggesting that the conservative Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government takes its inspiration from Ottoman-era policies. “We are a nation-state that is respectful of international law,” Davutoğlu said, noting that Turkey is also respectful of the territorial integrity of other states and expects the same kind of respect.
“There is no small or big state for us. We don’t have any intention of playing the role of ‘big brother’ for anyone, either. Our regional perspective is a perspective aimed at integration. However, we don’t make concessions on our rights or borders as a nation-state. We are determined to live in peace with all other nation-states,” he said.