20 August 2007

1890) Chilean Ambassador To Turkey,Vial: Born A Diplomat

 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians  Site ©  The Chilean ambassador to Turkey, Francisco Marambio Vial, was born a diplomat because that was his father's career. Since childhood he has learned to respect other cultures and beliefs. . .

He is happy about and proud of having friends all over the world. For him, there are many positive aspects of adopting a diplomatic lifestyle. Like most children of diplomats, his own three included, Ambassador Vial at one time told his father he would never follow this career path.

Still, he wishes he had the chance to spend more time in his own country since, in the end, a diplomat should really know the country he is representing. The ambassador has been posted in many countries around the world but is now pleased to be in Ankara. He mentions that Chile was the first Latin American country to recognize the young Turkish Republic and, while relations have certainly progressed, there are still many things to do.

“Yes, I was born a diplomat,” he says smiling in response to a question about the impact his childhood had on his current lifestyle. He then begins to recall another memory, saying: “Once I had a boss, it was some years ago, who was a diplomat like me. He kept telling me ‘You should do this and that because I am more senior.’ One day I told him, ‘Sorry, perhaps you are senior if I consider my years in the foreign service, but you have to see that I was born a diplomat.”

Ambassador Vial has a point, considering he lived the lifestyle since he was born, thanks to his father’s job. “As happens in many other foreign services, I am the son of a diplomat. I was born in Argentina in 1952 when my father was third secretary there. I followed my father’s steps. Then my father was assigned to Peru, later on Spain and then he was appointed as an ambassador to Japan and later to India and Belgium before retiring. I followed him until India. When I was 19 years old, after graduating from an international school in Japan, I went back to Chile and studied economics and law. I began foreign service work in 1976,” he explains.

When talking about the particular lifestyle of diplomats, the ambassador explains: “Sometimes some people think diplomats do not say too much, but this is not the case. I am very honest and frank. I have seen different cultures and learned from them. For example, Spaniards are very direct, and if they don’t like the way you dress, they will tell you what they think.” Ambassador Vial says his main principle in diplomacy is to try to understand, adding: “You must respect all cultures and beliefs. This is something I learned when I was a small child. I remember that when I was doing my last six years in Japan in an international school there were so many people from so many countries -- Great Britain, Hungary, China, Korea, Turkey, India. So I grew up with a diversity of cultures, and that helps with understanding.”

“One of the very positive outcomes of being born a diplomat is to have friends everywhere in the world,” he says, and mentioning this part of diplomatic life makes him laugh. “For example in Egypt I have a very close friend; in Morocco I have another one. Actually in all parts of the world I know someone who is either my friend or my father’s friend. This is a good part of being the son of an ambassador. Also, since I went to an international school, I have friends everywhere. I remember there was a friend of mine from Afghanistan. When my father was the ambassador to Japan, our neighbor was the Afghan ambassador, and we became very good friends,” he says.

Of course, there are some negative aspects of being born the son of a diplomat. For example, Ambassador Vial was not able to attend birthday parties, funerals, family gatherings or baptism ceremonies. He also underlines that a diplomat family tends to get smaller. “The children of a diplomat after a while get a little bit tired. They say: ‘Dad, that’s it. I don’t want to follow your career.’ Something like that happened to me, too. When I left my father, he was the ambassador to India. We were six brothers, and every one or two years one of the sons would leave and come back. The family was decreasing in the places to which my father was posted.”

The ambassador says he and his eldest brother were the only two out of the six who decided to become diplomats. When he informed his father about his chosen career path, his father didn’t comment but Ambassador Vial thinks he was pleased with the decision. “I was expecting that he would say, ‘Oh, I’m very happy,’ but he didn’t say anything at all. Maybe inside he was happy. I think and I hope so. Not all diplomats end up ambassadors; this is a nice career,” he underlines. Ambassador Vial mentions that he will also keep quiet about his three children’s futures -- something he learned from his father.

In addition to Turkey, Ambassador Vial has served in China, Japan, Argentina, Spain and Canada. He served as chief of protocol for the former president before being appointed ambassador to Ankara.

From end of the world

Since he was the chief of protocol responsible presidential visits, the current ambassador has had the chance to see many countries. When asked if there is any country he hasn’t seen, he laughs and says: “Not exactly. I thought Australia would be a place hard to get to, but I went there. Most of one’s diplomatic career, the number of years you are out is much more than you are in. Sometimes I say, ‘Well, you are going to represent your country; you must know it very well.’ But anyway, I am used to this. In our system, we are posted abroad for five years and two years at home. After a couple of years you know that you have to leave. You cannot have an ambassador for 10 years in the same place because new ideas have to come. My passion is culture; I love culture. In the countries that I was posted to before, I always promoted tourism, culture and commerce. Chile is a country with a population of 16 million spread out over 750,000 square kilometers. We are at the end of the world.”

In fact one of the meanings of “Chile” is “the end of the world.” Talking about his country’s name, he also mentions another story, remarking: “When the Spaniards discovered Latin America for the first time, they heard a bird chirping a sound like ‘chile, chile.’”

The ambassador underlines that Turkey is becoming a new tourist destination for people from the “end of the world,” saying, “It was a surprise a couple of years ago when I saw a full-page ad for Turkey in a newspaper.” He is planning to promote tourism from Turkey to his own country as well, explaining: “I am trying to do my best but there is a lot on the agenda. We will have another round of negotiations for the free trade agreement. We will also have a Chilean week in Istanbul with a lot of Chilean activities, but those will be surprises. We have to work a bit harder to promote Chile here. It is far away, but offers a lot. You don’t need a visa and we have little bit of everything -- skiing, lakes, fishing spots, seafood and a lot of hospitality, which makes us similar to Turkish people.”

According to him it is this hospitality that makes Latin America and Turkey -- living so far from each other -- so similar. “I lived in some countries in which the relations are very distant; you don’t have this very close friendship. You don’t get to know your neighbors. In the cases of Chile and Turkey, people are just so welcoming. That is why we feel close. For example, in our countries, physical contract is very important. In some countries greetings are made by just saying ‘hello’ or bowing, but we need to touch,” he says.

Ambassador Vial stresses how happy he is to be here in Ankara and that he has many ideas for developing relations between the two countries. He also brings up the fact that Chile was the first Latin American country to recognize Turkey after the republic’s establishment and the first to open an embassy here. Honoring this old relationship there is a Chilean square in Ankara with a sculpture of Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme, the leader of Chilean independence.

“This square has been there for many years; it was opened during the term of one of the very first ambassadors. We are expecting a second monument, but this one will recognize Pablo Neruda, the poet who won the Nobel Prize. We have two Nobel Prize winners and are very proud of that fact -- it is not easy to have two Nobel Prizes in Literature. Many people ask about Neruda because he is widely read. We have been talking with the Çankaya Municipality, and I hope there will be a second Chilean square to honor Neruda in September,” he comments. In his work room, there is a picture of Neruda, and the ambassador frequently says he gives special importance to cultural relations as a tool for having better relations between countries. Ambassador Vial says he reads Turkish literature, but he hesitates to give names. “I try not to mention names. When you mention one, you exclude another one,” he says, complaining that there are very few books in Spanish about Turkey.

He says relations between the countries have been developing since 1926. “Since then, we have been working together very closely. Our relations are becoming more and more important, and we have rich bilateral relations. This year we had a week of Chilean movies in Istanbul and also published a book in Turkish that we introduced both in Istanbul and Ankara. We are trying to promote tourism and cultural activities while also having preliminary discussions on signing a free trade agreement. There have been high-level reciprocal visits, with our President Michelle Bachelet visiting Turkey when she was minister of defense. We are the only Latin American country who has a military attaché in Turkey,” he explained. Bachelet is a central-left politician and the first female president of Chile. When it comes to the left and Chile, the song “Vencelemos” comes to mind. This song is as famous in Turkey as in Chile, at least among leftists. It is very hard to have a meeting in which this tune is not sung at the end. It means “we will win” and its lyrics refer to former Chilean Prime Minister Salvador Allende, who was killed during a military coup against his government in 1973. The ambassador smiles when he hears the song, explaining it is a very popular folk song in his country. In discussing the history of his county, he says: “Chile has changed. We have a democratic government now.”

Ambassador Vial feels his country his proud of having a female president, adding: “Women are growing increasingly active in various fields. In some places, they should have a bigger presence. I remember that having a female defense minister surprised some people, and they kept asking ‘Why?’ She was a very good defense minister and was also a health minister because she is a doctor. She became very popular and was then elected president, running as the candidate from the central-left coalition. People like her.”



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