Turkey unveils new Cabinet of Erdogan allies

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday approved a new Cabinet stacked with loyal allies just a day after he became head of state, with former Europe minister Mevlut Cavusoglu promoted to foreign minister.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who took over Erdogan's former job as prime minister on Thursday, announced a ministerial line-up little changed from Erdogan's Cabinet, with only four new names.

Davutoglu had won approval for his Cabinet at a meeting with Erdogan at the presidential palace and the new president is expected to keep a tight control over the government.

The most notable appointment was the choice of Cavusoglu to head the foreign ministry, taking over the job that Davutoglu had himself held since 2009.

A figure seen as reassuring for the United States and the European Union, many will want Cavusoglu to rebalance Turkish foreign policy which was condemned in some quarters for over-ambition under Davutoglu.

In his first comments, Cavusoglu staked out EU membership as a priority for Turkey, but called on EU states to "remove the political obstacles ahead of us".

Press reports had suggested the head of Turkey's intelligence service, Hakan Fidan as a possible new foreign minister and Cavusoglu, 46, represents a far more palatable figure for the West.

Former president Abdullah Gul, a former close comrade and co-founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), appears now to have fallen out with the feisty Erdogan and will play no role in the new government.

But key economic figures Ali Babacan and Mehmet Simsek keep their respective posts as deputy prime minister and finance minister, a move set to reassure markets which see them as guarantors of good economic policy under the AKP.

Among the new members of the government is Yalcin Akdogan, a former advisor of Erdogan and ultra-loyal figure, who has been made a deputy prime minister.

Another new arrival in the Cabinet from the conservative wing of the AKP is its deputy chairman Numan Kurtulmus who becomes a deputy prime minister.

As in the previous government, there is only one woman in the Cabinet, Family and Social Policy Minister Aysenur Islam.

Erdogan has vowed to continue his transformation of Turkey as president, after ruling the country since 2003 as prime minister with a distinctive cocktail of Islamic-tinted and growth-orientated policies.

The presidency has in recent years been a largely ceremonial role but Erdogan has vowed to be a different kind of head of state and few doubt he will remain the undisputed Turkish number one.

"The focus of the government has not changed. It is just a partial modification," Kurtulmus said.

The highest-profile departure was veteran deputy prime minister and long-standing Cabinet minister Besir Atalay who wanted to leave high office.

Erdogan won the presidential election on Aug 10 with almost 52 per cent of the vote, the first time Turks have directly elected their head of state.

In a speech Thursday after his inauguration, Erdogan vowed to advance the peace process with the Kurdish minority in the southeast to end an insurgency that has claimed some 40,000 lives.

He also reassured the West that Turkey would keep working towards its goal of joining the European Union, saying membership was "our strategic target".

Turkey's opposition accused Erdogan of seeking to rule like a dictator and undermining the secular principles of the founder of the modern state, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Deputies from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) walked out of his inauguration, with one MP even hurling a book across the floor.

But Erdogan sought to play down fears he is seeking to erode Ataturk's legacy by paying a hugely symbolic visit to his mausoleum in Ankara on Thursday.

"Beloved Ataturk, since your death, the bond between the president and the people has weakened," Erdogan wrote in the memorial book at Anitkabir for Ataturk who died in 1938.

"I believe that my tenure is an opportunity for the people and the state to embrace each other," he added.

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