Blake Hounshell: This year, one of the most dramatic events in world politics was when Turkey and Brazil joined up to cut a fuel-swap deal with Iran over its enriched uranium. And that was seen by many as a watershed moment: Here you have two rising powers taking matters into their own hands and trying to solve an important global problem. Obviously it hasn't succeeded yet. Why not? And what is your response to critics who say that Turkey and Brazil were naive in thinking that Iran was willing to do a serious deal?
Ahmet Davutoglu: First of all, "taking matters into their own hands" -- this phrase should be clarified. Turkey and Brazil, both of these countries are members of the United Nations Security Council. When we were being elected to the Security Council, our commitment to the world community who elected us was that we will be working hard, we will be doing everything possible in order to make sure that there is no tension in international relations, that there will be no threat of war, and we will be working for diplomatic solutions. This was our commitment, both for Turkey and Brazil. So it was not something we decided. It was our commitment.
Secondly, we did not decide alone. This idea of a swap deal was discussed between the P5+1 [the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany] and Iran before our initiative. And former IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei developed this formulation and approached us to ask whether Turkey could work with both sides in order to store Iran's 3.5 percent enriched uranium in Turkey as a confidence-building [measure]. And we consulted with our allies. All of them agreed; Iran agreed; and so we started this initiative. And we worked very hard, together with Brazil, over eight months of hectic diplomacy from October to May. At the end of the day Iran accepted the swap deal, and we announced the agreement in Tehran.
And I always said this was not the success only of Turkey and Brazil, but this is the success of President Obama's policy of engagement and multilateralism. If there was no policy of engagement and multilateralism, this agreement would not have been possible.
BH: Do you think President Obama is moving away from engagement and trying to build new relationships in the world?
AD: I don't think President Obama has abandoned the policy of engagement. Even on the day when the U.N. sanctions were passed against Iran, President Obama declared that the diplomatic track is still on and they are ready to negotiate with Iran.
I always like Winston Churchill's phrase: It is not the end. It is not the beginning. It is the end of the beginning. All these processes are ends of the beginning.
BH: Who would you say has had the biggest impact on your thinking as an intellectual and as a foreign-policy practitioner?
AD: Of course as intellectuals there are many people who really had an influence on me. For example, Plato in his dialogues has interesting things to say about ideals and practice.
BH: A Turkish foreign minister citing a Greek thinker.
AD: Yes, of course! For us, he is not only a Greek thinker; he is our thinker, because if you read the works of Ottoman scholars of the 16th century, all of these Greek scholars were addressed as "our masters." So for us, they represent the history of all traditions, and theirs are the values of humanity.
And of course I'm influenced by many other leaders like Gandhi, as a practitioner and as a visionary trying to use unconventional new methods to achieve political objectives. In order to achieve peace, you have to be creative.
In 2003, when I became chief advisor [to the prime minister], in one of the first interviews I gave I said, "We have to have zero problems with our neighbors." Many people thought, "Typical utopian academic. How, given the reality of Turkey's relations with its neighbors, can you achieve this?" And, in the last eight years, under the leadership and political stability of Prime Minister Erdogan, it has been proven that it's not a utopian idea. It is a reality today; nobody expects any crisis between Turkey and any neighbor.