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Remembering Turgut Özal: Some Personal Recollections

An American ambassador recounts some of his dealings with Turgut Ozal, particularly on the first Iraq war, and provides his personal view of the man, his personality, and his legacy.

Remembering Turgut Özal Some Personal Recollections
Turkish President Turgut Özal met with USA President George Bush at OSCE meeting in Paris, 1990. AA / Selahattin Yılmaz
 

Two very different Turkish leaders have played impressively on both the world and domestic stages—Turgut Ozal and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both have been transformational leaders with great achievements. Ozal was a new type of Turkish leader with a realistic vision for where Turkey should be headed, and the intellect, pragmatism, determination and political skill to remake the economy. He dominated the Turkish scene for a decade. 

Erdogan, the beneficiary of Ozal’s radical changes, has followed in his footsteps but had nothing like Ozal’s knowledge and experience. He has rather a different style of pugnacious, in your face, endlessly pronouncing leadership. Still, he also has had the personality, dynamism, and political skills to do no less than change Turkey politically and give the country a cache it never had.

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