H.E. Yasar Yakis

Former Foreign Minister of Turkey

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H.E. Yasar Yakis was born in 1938. He studied political science at the University of Ankara, and after graduating entered the diplomatic service in 1962. He held various positions both at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and abroad, including at the Turkish General Consulate in Antwerp, Belgium, and at the Turkish embassy in Lagos, Nigeria. Afterwards he attended the NATO Defence College in Rome, before being appointed Counsellor, first in the Permanent Delegation of Turkey to NATO, and then in the Turkish embassy in Syria. He also founded and chaired the Coordination Office, an organ established after the President of Turkey was made Chairman of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Co-operation (COMCEC) of the Islamic Conference Organization, to provide him with secretarial and administrative services.

His first high-profile appointment came in 1988, when he was appointed as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, followed by another three year stint in Ankara as Deputy Undersecretary in charge of Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1995 he was appointed as Ambassador to Egypt and in 1998 as Turkey’s Permanent Representative at the UN offices in Vienna. In 2000, he was appointed as a Senior Policy Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In 2001 he resigned and left the Foreign Office. He taught “Turkey’s Foreign Policy” at the University of Bilkent and “Water Diplomacy” at the University of Hacettepe. He subsequently entered politics, co-founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) a force which would revolutionize Turkish politics and was made the Deputy Chairman of the Party in charge of international relations. He was elected as a member of parliament in 2002 and became Foreign Minister. He led his country’s bid to start accession talks with the EU. He is also credited with having eased tensions with Cyprus.

He participated in and contributed to the work of the European Convention to draft a European Constitution. He became Chairman of the EU Committee in the Turkish Parliament and co-Chairman of the Turkey-EU joint parliamentary Committee, arguably the most important role in Turkey’s dealings with the EU. After being re-elected at the 2007 elections, he chaired other organs such as the Turkey-France Friendship group and the Turkey-Egypt friendship group.

Yakis is fluent in French, English and Arabic and has published several journal articles in English, in French and in Turkish, as well as the book “Water Issues between Turkey, Syria and Iraq” which has been well received by the academic community.

Yakis and his government have also taken the initiative in facilitating the promotion of Kurdish language and culture, actions which would have been unthinkable under previous administrations. He also participated in various conferences and delivered speeches all around Europe on subjects ranging from Turkey’s eventual EU membership to regional security and stabilization.

His work towards developing Saudi-Turkish relations has been rewarded with the First Degree Order of King Abdulaziz; he has also been decorated by the President of the Republic of Italy with the “Ordine della Stella Italiana – Commendatore – 2007” and by the President of the French Republic with Legion d'Honneur (Officier)-2009.

Yakis is married and has one child.