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Ankara shakes up foreign policy

Jan. 11, 2010 at 4:53 PM

ANKARA, Turkey, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Ankara will send foreign staffers to work in border regions before they take office in an effort to remove diplomatic walls, the Turkish foreign minister said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the government is embarking on a new campaign of diplomacy aimed at shoring up relations with neighboring countries, Turkish daily Today's Zaman reports.

The minister said diplomats would be assigned to work in provinces neighboring Iraq, Syria and Bulgaria before taking office in order to make sure envoys understand bilateral issues at a local level.

"There will be no more borders or walls," he said. "Of course this doesn't mean the border between the two countries will be removed. What we mean is that we are people that have ties that transcend the borders."

Ankara is keen to establish itself as a middle ground between the East and the West, lobbying for a position in the European Union while reaching out to its partners in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sidestepped criticism against his government's foreign policies in the region, saying the aim of diplomacy is to position Ankara as a player in regional affairs and not "an object."

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