Turkey's 'secret-keeper' Hakan Fidan set for top government job

A 2012 file photo made available on Feb 7, 2015, shows the head of Turkey's intelligence service, Hakan Fidan (centre) in Ankara, Turkey. -- PHOTO: EPA
A 2012 file photo made available on Feb 7, 2015, shows the head of Turkey's intelligence service, Hakan Fidan (centre) in Ankara, Turkey. -- PHOTO: EPA

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkey's powerful spy chief Hakan Fidan, who has resigned to stand for parliament, has carved himself out a key role as right-hand man to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but has aroused suspicions abroad.

Fidan, who according to press reports may be given a top government job after the June polls, has been in the driving seat of peace talks with Kurdish rebels as well as Turkey's campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Fidan, in his late 40s, was appointed to the head of the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) by Erdogan in May 2010 after serving as his foreign policy adviser for three years.

"He is my secret-keeper, he is the state's secret-keeper," Erdogan said in 2012, describing Fidan as a "very well-trained bureaucrat".

Fidan is seen as an unfriendly figure by Israel, whose relations with Turkey took a nosedive after Israeli commandos staged a deadly operation to storm a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

A US media report in 2013 accused Fidan of blowing the cover of a network of Mossad-run Iranians operating on Turkish soil in what was branded an "act of betrayal" in the Jewish state.

'I SENT HIM'

Fidan took part in peace talks with senior figures from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Oslo in 2009, which unravelled in 2011 when secret recordings were leaked to the media revealing the negotiations.

After the talks collapsed, Erdogan's government delegated Fidan to negotiate with jailed PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan, Turkey's one-time "nemesis" who is serving a life sentence on the prison island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara.

In 2012, the Turkish parliament passed legislation requiring the prime minister's authorisation to interrogate the country's spy chiefs, effectively shielding Fidan from any prosecution.

Erdogan publicly voiced support for his ally, declaring: "It was me who sent him to Oslo and to Imrali."

Details about Fidan's life are largely confidential, with only a sparse biography published on MIT's website.

He has been described as unassuming.

He served in the Turkish armed forces as a non-commissioned officer and also worked at Nato's Germany-based Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.

The married father-of-three has a bachelor's degree in political science and government from the University of Maryland University College in the United States.

He also earned a master's and a doctoral degree at Ankara's private Bilkent University.

He headed a public agency for development known as Tika, which is active in the Turkic states and Africa but also in other Muslim countries where Turkey has been trying to gain a foothold as part of its strategy to become a regional power.

Before he was appointed to MIT, Fidan worked in Erdogan's office as a deputy undersecretary and is also known to have worked closely with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Analysts have long speculated that Erdogan is grooming his protege for a top role in government, even up to the post of prime minister.

But speculation this time has suggested he may become a powerful foreign minister after the June polls.