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Executor of Turkey's economic reform program named new foreign minister

Executor of Turkey's economic reform program named new foreign minister

Turkey's new foreign minister has helped lift the Turkish economy from recession and is a strong advocate of European Union membership.
Ali Babacan, 40 _ one of the youngest ministers in the Cabinet _ succeeds Abdullah Gul, a devout Muslim who was chosen and immediately sworn in as president Tuesday. Gul, who vowed to uphold secularism despite skepticism from his critics, approved a Cabinet list submitted Wednesday by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The deeply pious Babacan was the minister in charge of the economy and, as Turkey's chief negotiator for EU membership, worked closely with Gul in the government's campaign to join the 27-member group.
The minister has a difficult task ahead.
Separatist Kurdish rebels have stepped up strikes against Turkey from hideouts in northern Iraq, and the military chief has spoken in favor of a cross-border incursion to stamp them out.
Erdogan appears reluctant to order an invasion. But the government has said Turkey would take any necessary steps if the United States fails to live up to a pledge to help fight the rebels.
Turkey is also concerned by a possible referendum on incorporating the oil-rich city of Kirkuk into the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Turkey opposes the referendum, fearing it could boost Kurdish separatists in Turkey.
Relations with the United States, a NATO ally, face a serious test with opposition Democrats proposing a congressional resolution that would recognize World War I-era killings of Armenians by Turks as genocide. Turkey vigorously denies the allegation.
Turkey's EU membership talks came to a virtual standstill late last year when European leaders decided to partially suspend negotiations to protest Ankara's refusal to open its ports to trade with EU member Cyprus.
Turkey does not recognize the government of Cyprus, which has led to a standoff between Brussels and Ankara over the membership bid.
Babacan, who earned a business degree at Northwestern University in the United States, also acted as steward of economic reforms that were backed by the International Monetary Fund. The reforms helped Turkey emerge from an economic crisis and attain an average annual growth of 7 percent.
As the youngest minister in the outgoing Cabinet, he was affectionately called "Bebe-can" or "Baby-can" by other ministers, according to reports.
Babacan was born to a conservative family in Ankara in 1967. His family ran a small business, where Babacan began working at an early age. He finished high school and university at the top of his class before studying in the United States.
Babacan, a founding member of Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, is married and has two children.


Updated : 2021-05-06 06:21 GMT+08:00