Eastern European Time Zone UTC+02:00
Capital City Ankara
Currency Turkish lira
National Day 29 October
Mr Abdurrahman Bilgiç arrived in London in July to take up his new post as Turkey’s Ambassador in the UK. He arrived with his wife Esra and daughter and hopes that his son will join him once he has finished university in Turkey.
It was during his studies at Ankara University, where Mr Bilgiç graduated with a degree in International Relations in 1985, that it became clear that diplomacy was a route he wanted to take, becoming the first member of his family to be a diplomat.
Mr Bilgiç began his career in the Foreign Service in 1986, where he served in the Turkish Embassies in Libya (Tripoli) and Australia (Canberra) and in the Turkish Consulate in the Netherlands (Deventer.) Between 2003 and 2005 he was Director General at the Directorate General for Press and Information of the Prime Ministry. “Then I became Consul General in Germany (Munich) and before my post in London I was appointed as Ambassador of Turkey to Japan in 2011. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay too long there.” He continues, “one of the most memorable events in my career was the presentation of my credentials to the Emperor of Japan. But now I will have another thrilling opportunity here in the UK this time to meet Her Majesty. These are amazing traditions.”
During his posting in Japan Mr Bilgiç prioritised and promoted economic trade relations between the two countries, and he explains that Turkey’s economy continues to be a priority during his appointment in the UK. “I want to develop two-way relations with the whole of the UK. We have already established close relations with the Scottish Parliament and have agreed an economic integration model to develop our relations, which should reflect our genuine potential.”
Mr Bilgiç has already travelled to Cardiff and Edinburgh and hopes to visit Belfast soon. He declares: “We have a Consulate General in Edinburgh and an active Honorary Consulate in both Belfast and Cardiff, but we still want to do more. Our level of cooperation in terms of economic and trade relations already exceeds US$15 billion, but it should be more. Over 2,500 British companies or companies with British capital are operating in Turkey, but we want to increase that level. I want to explore new avenues for cooperation.”
Although Turkey has already established itself in the banking sector, Mr Bilgiç aspires to see “Istanbul as a financial hub. So it is important to cooperate with London as one of the most important financial centres in the world.”
Between 2011 and 2014, Ambassador Bilgiç was Deputy Undersecretary in the Prime Ministry, mainly dealing with “external security issues.” This was a tense time, especially when considering the Arab Spring and other events that took place in the Middle East during these years, but it has prepared the Ambassador for the current diplomatic challenges facing Turkey at the moment, and of course the inevitable questions from his colleagues in London: “Of course the situation in Syria and the Isis problem is a serious, direct threat to Turkey. Our cooperation with the relevant authorities in the UK is good.”
But Mr Bilgiç confirms that there are still major challenges. “I think we have to be much more careful to be heard in the media. He goes on to explain that Turkey has taken in 1.6 million refugees from Syria and spent US$4.5 billion. Referring to the current crisis in the Kobane region he says, “in one week we took in 200,000 civilians – almost the whole population – and still we are very badly criticised.
A chess player with an interest in calligraphy, Mr Bilgiç is a man that represents the cultural dynamics of Istanbul, both the old and new. Clearly committed to his country, Mr Bilgiç will do much to continue to promote his country’s political goals and to strengthen cooperation between Turkey and the UK.
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