New Zealand Embassy Ankara, Turkey
May you live in interesting times – My first month in Ankara
Two weeks ago, I had the honour of presenting my credentials to H.E. Abdullah Gul, President of the Republic of Turkey.
As is traditional, that morning I laid a wreath at the Anitkabir, the mausoleum of the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This was deeply moving given the linkages drawn at Anitkabir between our ANZAC experience at Gallipoli in 1915, and the role the campaign played in the emergence of Ataturk as a military and then political leader.
Indeed, it was Ataturk’s generous expression of reconciliation, and peace, following Gallipoli that remains the foundation of the strong, warm relationship between Turkey and New Zealand.
Our annual ANZAC Day commemorations are a central focus for us, and we are already looking towards the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli in 2015.
Shortly, I will pay my first official visit to Canakkale. Like many New Zealanders I have always wanted to make a pilgrimage to Gallipoli.
To be honest, I never thought I would do so as New Zealand’s Ambassador to Turkey. It promises to be an emotional visit.
While the historical foundation of our relationship with Turkey remains, rightly, at its heart Turkey’s contemporary role, and building a positive, dynamic bilateral relationship with it is also a major focus for us.
In this context, it is an exciting time to be in Ankara. Turkey is in the midst of a fascinating evolution – economically, politically, and in redefining its role on the regional and international stage.
It is playing a prominent role in several regional issues of importance to us – from the Arab Spring, to Afghanistan to Iran and the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).
And, New Zealand and Turkey are both running for seats on the UN Security Council in 2015/2016.
Reporting on Turkey’s views on and approaches to these issues, and their implications for New Zealand, will be central to our effort for some time to come.
Economically, Turkey’s recent growth has been very impressive, and it has weathered the global economic crisis relatively well.
We see real opportunities here for New Zealand businesses in areas such as specialised manufacturing, agricultural technology, and in the defence and education sectors.
We are excited about working with NZTE on its major “Talk Turkey” initiative. This will, among other things, help raise awareness of the potential opportunities that exist for New Zealand businesses in Turkey.
And, we will continue to make our case with the Turkish Government for reducing the trade barriers faced by our agriculture exporters here.
If our relationship with Turkey wasn’t absorbing enough in itself, I will be accredited also to Israel, Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).
Israel and the oPt are pivotal players in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Concluding the MEPP remains critical to chances for future sustainable regional security and stability.
New Zealand’s even-handed approach to the MEPP has allowed us to talk, and be heard, by both sides – and also given us unique insights into their perspectives.
We see strong potential, also, for New Zealand businesses in Israel, particularly in the science and technology area. We are looking forward to exploring these further next year, including through a planned science and business mission to Israel.
Our work sees us visiting the region regularly, and we work closely with our Minister’s office; colleagues in New York and our regional Posts; and our Middle East and Africa, and other Divisions in Wellington.
So I have a busy, interesting, and sometimes complex role!
I am very lucky to have hard-working and committed colleagues at the Embassy. “NZ Inc” is well served in Ankara by the close, warm relationship we enjoy with our NZTE colleagues.
And, the great efforts of our Honorary Consuls in Istanbul, Amman and Tel Aviv add significantly to our footprint in our region.
I feel privileged to have been entrusted with leading this team in a country that holds such an important place in the hearts of New Zealanders, and at a time that the changes sweeping our region could define its future – and thus our relations with it - for years to come.