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"Turkey as a European State: Progress and Challenges"
The Hon. Yasar Yakis, Former Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs

(Berlin, ICD House, Lecture & Discussion, November 7th, 2009)

The Hon. Yasar Yakis (GMT Advisory Board Member)

Turkish MP, Former Foreign Minister of Turkey and Chairman of the European Union Harmonization Commission of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey

H.E. Yasar Yakis was born in 1938 in Akçakoca, in the Black Sea Region of Turkey. 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 Republic’s general consulate in Antwerp, Belgium, and at the Turkish embassy in Lagos, Nigeria. Afterwards he attended classes at the NATO defence college in Rome, before being appointed counsellor, first in the Permanent Delegation of Turkey to NATO, and then Counsellor to 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, to provide him with secretarial and administrative services.

His first high-profile appointment came in 1988, when he was made Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, followed by another three year stint in Cairo, as Ambassador to Egypt. In 1995, after a period as Turkey’s permanent representative at the UN offices in Vienna, he returned to Ankara where he was appointed Deputy Undersecretary of Economic Affairs at the Foreign Office.. At the November 2002 general elections he ran as the candidate for his home province After nearly 6 years in charge of the Economic Affairs department, in 2001 he resigned and left the Foreign Office altogether. He subsequently entered politics and co-founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) a force which would revolutionise Turkish politics, and was made the Party’s spokesman on international relations of Duzce and won, eventually entering the government. As Foreign Minister from 2003, he greatly improved diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, given his time as Ambassador there, and also lead his country’s bid to start accession talks with the EU. He is also credited with having eased tensions with Cyprus.

His engagement with the EU made him stand out as a member of the European Convention to draft a European Constitution, and brought him to be nominated Chair of the EU Harmonization Commission of the Turkish Grand National Assembly 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. He is active in Turkish academic circles as well, and taught lectures in Turkish Foreign Policy at the University of Bilkent and on “Water Diplomacy” at the University of Hacettepe. Yakis is fluent in French, English and Arabic and has published several journal articles in English and Turkish, as well as the book “Turkey, Syria and Iraq: between Water Resources” which has been well received by the academic community.

Yaris 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 to various conferences and gave 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 with the “Ordine della Stella Italiana – Commendatore – 2007” by the Italian government. Yakis is married and has one child.