Ismail Cem and the breakthrough in 1999
Ismail Cem served as Turkey's foreign minister in two different governments between 1997 and 2002.
Cem was at the centre of a foreign policy transformation that saw Turkey move from a country snubbed at the 1997 EU summit in Luxembourg (when it was denied EU candidate status) to an EU candidate state in Helsinki two years later.
It was a profound transformation. As late as September 1998, the impression of increasing cooperation between Armenia, Greece and Iran had caused such irritation in Turkey that Ismail Cem himself went to Tehran and accused Greece of attempting to "recruit Muslim soldiers to take part in new Crusades." Little suggested at the time that Turkey was about to be embraced by the EU, and by Greece above all, as a prospective EU member state.
In Türkiye, Avrupa, Avrasya, a posthumously published book, Cem recalls his years at the Ministry