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Turkey unveils new cabinet of Erdogan allies

AFP , Friday 29 Aug 2014
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attend the Extraordinary Congress of the ruling AK Party (AKP) to choose a new leader of the party, ahead of Erdogan's inauguration as president, in Ankara August 27, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved a new cabinet stacked with loyal allies just a day after he moved from premier to head of state, with former Europe minister Mevlut Cavusoglu promoted to foreign minister.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who took over Erdogan's former job on Thursday, announced a ministerial line-up little changed from Erdogan's cabinet, with only four new names.

Davutoglu had won approval for his cabinet at a meeting with Erdogan at the presidential palace.

The most notable appointment was that of Cavusoglu to the post of foreign minister, taking over the post that Davutoglu had himself held since 2009.

A figure seen as reassuring for the United States and the European Union, many will want Cavusoglu to rebalance Turkish foreign policy which was condemned in some quarters for over-ambition under Davutoglu.

Press reports had suggested the head of Turkey's intelligence service, Hakan Fidan as a possible new foreign minister.

Former president Abdullah Gul, a former close comrade and co-founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), appears now to have fallen out with the feisty Erdogan and will play no role in the new government.

But key economic figures Ali Babacan and Mehmet Simsek keep their respective posts as deputy prime minister and finance minister, a move set to reassure markets which see them as guarantors of good economic policy under the AKP.

Among the new members of the government is Yalcin Akdogan, a former advisor of Erdogan and ultra-loyal figure, who has been made a deputy prime minister.

There is only one woman in the cabinet, Family and Social Policy Minister Aysenur Islam.

Erdogan has vowed to continue his transformation of Turkey as president, after ruling the country since 2003 as prime minister with a distinctive cocktail of Islamic-tinted and growth-orientated policies.

The presidency has in recent years been a largely ceremonial role but Erdogan has vowed to be a different kind of head of state and few doubt he will remain the undisputed Turkish number one.

"The gates of a great new Turkey have opened," headlined the strongly pro-Erdogan Sabah newspaper with a picture of Erdogan at the front door of the Cankaya presidential palace.

Erdogan won the presidential election on August 10 with almost 52 percent of the vote, the first time Turks have directly elected their head of state.

In a speech Thursday after his inauguration, Erdogan vowed to advance the peace process with the Kurdish minority in the southeast to end an insurgency that has claimed some 40,000 lives.

He also reassured the West that Turkey would keep working towards its goal of joining the European Union, despite prickly ties with the EU and the United States in recent months over his perceived authoritarianism in.

"Our walk towards the EU -- which is our strategic target -- will continue with determination," Erdogan said.

Turkey's opposition accused Erdogan of seeking to rule like a dictator and undermining the secular principles of the founder of the modern state, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Deputies from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) walked out of his inauguration, with one MP even hurling a book across the floor.

But Erdogan sought to play down fears he is seeking to erode Ataturk's legacy by paying a hugely symbolic visit to his mausoleum in Ankara on Thursday.

"Beloved Ataturk, since your death, the bond between the president and the people has weakened," Erdogan wrote in the memorial book at Anitkabir for Ataturk who died in 1938.

"I believe that my tenure is an opportunity for the people and the state to embrace each other," he added.

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