2321) Ambassadors : ANZAC's - Morocco - Indonesia - Ethiopia - Russia

Peace Ambassadors: Our Nation Was Born On The Shores Of Gallipoli
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The four of the great-grandsons of ANZAC’s are in Turkey for the Peace Ambassadors project launched by the AK Party which aims to bring the grandchildren of the war together.

"They were communicating with each other, they would throw each other chocolates across the trenches," says Emma Slack-Smith, whose great-grandfather was an ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) member who fought in the Battle of Gallipoli.

Her friends Ailsa Hawkins, Karen Throssell and Jo-Anne Hardy, all of them likewise descendants of Anzac veterans who fought at Gallipoli, agree with her as they recall memories of the war told to them by their families. The four of them are in Turkey for the Peace Ambassadors project launched by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which aims to bring the grandchildren of the war together. Like the Australian talking about her grandfather throwing chocolates to the Turkish side, Turgut Kaçmaz, the son of a Turkish Gallipoli veteran, recalls a story he heard from his father: "My father used to tell me that the Anzacs used to throw chocolates to them across the trenches. [The] Turks responded by throwing dried figs. Then they threw cigarettes to each other." . .

The Battle of Gallipoli was fought on land and sea at Gallipoli (Çanakkale in Turkish) during World War I. The British and the French were trying to take control of Istanbul as well as the Turkish straits to secure access to Russia. However, they were unsuccessful in their efforts and the campaign ended with heavy casualties on both sides -- and left the veterans with many stories to tell their descendants.

The AK Party decided this year in order to "remind the nations of the world of the importance of peace" they would bring together the descendants of Gallipoli veterans under the Peace Ambassadors' project on the anniversary of the end of the sea war, after which the Anzacs decided to launch a land campaign.

The relatives of Australian veterans have visited Ankara, and they will participate in the commemoration ceremonies in Çanakkale and will visit Istanbul, as well.

Gallipoli is extremely important in the history of the Turkish Republic as well as of importance in Australian history. "The nation of Australia was born on the shores of Gallipoli," says Cherly Mongan from the Veteran Affairs Department of the Australian state. She says that Australia's Anzac Day is commemorated with larger and larger ceremonies each year. "I know young Australians who hitchhiked from London to Çanakkale in order to participate in the ceremonies," Mongan added.

Hardy says that her grandfather was the last survivor of the war and passed away in 2002. Her grandfather was just 16 years old when he landed at Gallipoli, and often called "kid" in jest. Hawkins' grandfather was wounded in the war, Throssel's grandfather was a captain in the conflict and Slack-Smith's great-grandfather was an engineer who landed at Gallipoli on the very first day of the battle and who did not leave until the battle's last day.

Kaçmaz says that his father used to tell him the Anzacs were not at Gallipoli out of their own free will, but were brought there by the British and were therefore not perceived by the Turkish soldiers as arch-enemies.

Hawkins grimaces and says, "Australians fought for the other's war." The Anzac descendants say that their grandparents were very eager to discuss the horrors of the war but mentioned the friendship, sacrifice and courage that went along with the armed conflict. In particular, they spoke of the Turkish soldiers as honest, heroic figures. Kaçmaz says the same, "My father used to mention Anzacs as honest, heroic warriors."

Slack-Smith says she has been told that their grandfathers would stop fighting in some days during the battle, and when they saw a German, British or French commander approaching, they would start to pretend to fight. To recall their memories of their grandfathers brings smiles to their faces. But not all of the memories are pleasant. Hardy says that her grandfather would frequently send letters to his mother, describing the war.

"In this letter he was saying that he landed safely, but right after landing, one of his friends' head was blown off. He wrote letters to his mother, mentioning the difficult conditions. Even until he reached his 90s, he would mention the decomposing bodies they had to walk over."

Throssell tells us her grandfather's story. According to her, he shipped off to war with his brother, and after particularly hard campaigns, they would find each other by a secret, special whistle. Every time, for her grandfather it was relieving to hear his brother, until the day when he didn't whistle back. Her father was named after her late great uncle.

Throssell says that being the descendant of a war veteran made her family defenders of peace. She says that her father was a very active member of the peace camp; she and her family are members of anti-nuclear armament organizations. Hardy adds that because of the Peace Ambassadors project they will meet the Turkish descendants of the war, mainly women. "The language of war is very masculine. With this project we will be reminded of the importance of the peace," she says. Slack-Smith adds, "It is easy to be a peace ambassador in 2008," eliciting smiles all around. They all agree that they are happy to be here and describe their trip as a sort of pilgrimage for Australian citizens. "We are learning not only about Turkey, but also about our families," they say and underline that it is great to meet their Turkish counterparts like Kaçmaz.

To meet with the grandchildren of the Anzacs is also very important to Kaçmaz. He highlights that this meeting fulfills one of his father's wishes: "When my father would speak of his war memories, he always underlined the importance of peace. He used to tell us that Gallipoli should be a land for peace for all of humanity."
19.03.2008 Ayse Karabat Ankara- Zaman

Ambassador Zagour: Morocco And Turkey Share Legacy Of Tolerance
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Abdullah Zagour, the ambassador of Morocco in Ankara, characterizes his country and Turkey as natural partners.

He hopes Morocco will adopt Turkey's economic development as a model and explains his country's tolerance and contribution in preserving the heritage of Granada. He talks about the colors of Moroccan cities, and of course says a thing or two about the famous movie "Casablanca" in his interview with Today's Zaman.

Looking out the window of his residence, Ambassador Zagour thinks for a while and smiles. "Ankara is brick red from here," he says. When asked about Morocco's major cities and their colors, he says Marrakech is red, Fez is yellow and Casablanca is white. "I think it is just a question of the weather. In the south it is very hot -- especially in the summer. For example, Marrakech is so hot that people can't see white things. That is why I think Marrakech is red. Casablanca is a new city built under the French protectorate period in Morocco during the last century. We have kept Casablanca's baroque French buildings from the last century. French urban style neglects secondary colors. In the French engineering system, cities have the same color. Casablanca has inherited this system from France, hence its white appearance. Our cities are generally white. We now have small cities in the north which are blue. Doors and windows are only blue and white in these cities. In general people use the color white, making it more dominant," he says. When asked about Turkey, the ambassador says, "I like the colors here in Turkey, the cities are very colored."

With the mention of Casablanca it is impossible to overlook the famous movie. Ambassador Zagour smiles once more and notes: "My Turkish friends who visited Casablanca for the first time were a little disappointed. Most of them had the film and the old city in mind. However, Casablanca is a new city now."

Going into further detail, the ambassador says: "The film was shot in 1942 during World War II. At that time Casablanca was a place for European resistance and was a French protectorate. But in 1942 Americans landed there and their participation in the war began. European militants flew to Casablanca. The film was about that. Though there is a café like Café Ricks, the name was changed in the film, although the one in Casablanca is still there -- there are more beautiful cities elsewhere in Morocco. We call cities like Rabat and Marrakech the imperial cities because they were capital cities of past Moroccan dynasties."

Maybe Casablanca is not the same Casablanca as the one featured in the movie, but Morocco has been the setting of movies like "Asterix" and "Blue Diamond," as the ambassador puts it. He says that the movie sector in his country has developed over the last 20 years. "There are several studios in the desert. The sky is very blue, which may be a reason why the American and French movie producers choose this city in particular -- and a lot of movie sets remain, like big columns like those of the Romans and statues of pharaohs. We currently have studios in Marrakech. Cinematographic activity is growing gradually in Morocco and many movie producers choose to film there, perhaps for the sun and climate and perhaps for the landscape. We have deserts, mountains, a coast, everything," he says.

The Andalusian influcence
During the interview, held at the ambassador's residence, we were served green Moroccan tea and sweets and listened to some very nice music. The ambassador explained that the music stemmed from the heritage of Granada. His country contributed a lot for the preservation of what was left from Granada, and this affected his country's culture, too. "We call it Morocco-Andalusia music," explains Ambassador Zagour.

"It is a kind of classical music that comes from Andalusia -- southern Spain. After the fall of Granada, lots of people migrated to Morocco -- especially to cities like Fez, Rabat and coastal cities. Some of these traditions have been kept from that time. The people that migrated were generally white and some of them had blue eyes. Even the names lots of Moroccans use are Spanish; for example, names like Toledano, Gassius, Palanino and Castillo are used. We have a 14-kilometer-long coast that we share with Spain. Morocco was the closest predominantly Muslim territory at the time of the migrations, so it is only normal that the migrants would settle in Morocco. Before the fall of Granada most scientists and authors lived in the south of Andalusia and central Morocco. Most the famous Arab poets lived between Fez, the capital of Morocco, and Granada, Cordoba and Seville in Spain. The founder of sociology, Ibn Khaldun, is but one of many examples," the ambassador proudly notes.

Morocco is also home to the world's first university, the University of al-Karaouine. This university is located in Fez and is considered to be the oldest university in the world, a center of learning for more than 1,000 years. "Its construction was financed by donations of a rich woman called Fatima al-Fihri. This university has also made the city of Fez the spiritual and cultural capital of Morocco. When the French left the country, most of the educated people came from Fez and we then extended education throughout the country," he says.

Historical ties
Morocco has also contributed to the preservation of the Jewish culture from Granada: It was one of the safe havens for the Jewish community of Granada following the fall of the city. "Israel is home to about 500,000 Moroccan Jews who have kept their Moroccan citizenships. If an Israeli who left Morocco in the 1960s comes with a paper which proves s/he is of Moroccan origin, s/he can get a Moroccan passport. They are still Moroccan. Moroccans cannot lose their citizenship. We can be Israeli, French or German but we are still Moroccan. Jews in Morocco have been there for more than 3,000 years and can be found in all of Morocco's regions. After the fall of Granada to Queen Isabella, Jews and Muslims left Spain. Many of them settled in Morocco -- particularly in Fez, but also in Rabat and other cities. Today we have a small community of around 30,000 or 40,000 Jews. Morocco has also been a safe haven for Jews throughout history. During World War II when Hitler adopted his policy of exterminating Jews and was occupying France under the regime of Vichy, Morocco was a French protectorate. Laws applied in France had to be applied in Morocco as well, but the sultan of Morocco opposed the French policy of deporting Jews from Morocco. Even today Israelis of Moroccan origin keep the photograph of King Hassan and his father, King Mohammed V. They still respect them. Israelis of Moroccan origin still live the same way -- in a Moroccan style," Ambassador Zagour says and, recalling one of his memories of Moroccan Jews adds:

"Two or three years ago I met an Israeli woman who left Morocco in the 1960s at the age of two. She spoke in the Moroccan dialect of Arabic. I could not believe it. Her family kept speaking in the Moroccan dialect! They still celebrate their events in the Moroccan way as they did in Morocco."

Speaking about the various groups within Morocco, the ambassador wishes to highlight several points: "Ten or 12 years ago our minister of tourism was Jewish. During the last term we had a Jewish deputy in parliament. We also have many Jewish businessmen. Morocco has always been a land of tolerance and safety for Jews and all minorities. There has always been a spirit of tolerance and coexistence between communities. An example is the Berbers and Arabs. Before the Arabs came to Morocco in the seventh century, this was Berber territory. After the Arabs settled here, it became half Arab and half Berber. But there isn't any distinction between the communities. My grandfather from my mother's side was a Berber and my mother speaks Berber. There are four dialects in our country, though our official language is Arabic. We also have 'Amazieh,' which is a Berber dialect. People don't speak classical Arabic; rather, they speak the Moroccan dialect of it. Arabic dialects differ from one region to another and it is possible to hear many dialects of Arabic in Morocco," he says.

Morocco is not only a country of dialects, it also has multiple languages interacting with one another. "French is spoken in Morocco and Spanish can be heard in the northern part of the country, which was a Spanish protectorate at one point. When Morocco gained its independence in 1955, both France and Spain left the country," he says.

Morocco was the only Maghreb (West African) country not ruled by the Ottoman Empire, though the two did always have good relations. "We have our own dynasties. Our first dynasty was based in Damascus in the eighth century. We particularly had good relations with the Ottomans in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Several of our dynasties gathered their efforts to counter European invasions, especially those of the Portuguese. They invaded some of our shore cities and they tried to invade all of North Africa, but the Ottomans were there to help our forces. These relations have brought with them many things. One example of this is the Kaftan -- a dress for both men and women in the past, but only for women nowadays. Women wear these dresses on special occasions," says Ambassador Zagour.

These good relations continue. Morocco was the first African country with which Turkey signed a free trade agreement. And trade relations, according to the ambassador, are excellent.

"Morocco was the first African and Arab country to sign a free trade agreement with Turkey in 2004. We opened the way for countries like Tunisia and Egypt. Morocco was the first country to show the courage to do this with Turkey, a highly competitive country. Our commercial policy is to open the economy and to take risks if there are any. Our economy must be linked to the global economy. Morocco is also the first Arab and Muslim country to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) / General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO was created in Marrakech in April 1994, following a conference. We also signed a free trade agreement with the US and some Arab countries (Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia). We also have association agreements with our other main partner, the EU. According to this agreement we will have a free trade zone in 2012. We have started to progressively eliminate customs tariffs over five years. In five more years, this program will end. An agreement between Turkey and Morocco foresees customs tariffs decreases within 10 years."

Ambassador Zagour is a career diplomat and has served in Turkey since 2003. He holds a degree in economics and when explaining his admiration for Turkey, he does so in economic terms: "There are lots of things I admire in Turkey. Turkey is an emerging economic and political power in this region. This development can serve as a model for us. I prefer for my country to take Turkey as a model rather than European countries. We both share the spirit of tolerance and openness. I think we are natural partners. The Turkish economy is home to better competitors. You have an aggressive policy. I hope my country would have this spirit of competition."
19.02.2008 Ayse Karabat Ankara

Indonesian Ambassador Bahrin: The Turkish Spirit Is Inimitable
Ambassador Zagour: Morocco And Turkey Share Legacy Of Tolerance
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Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Turkey Awang Bahrin thinks Turks have a special spirit and are hard workers, fighting for their future.

According to him this spirit was what made the Ottoman Empire live 600 years and still contributes to the economic and political development of Turkey, which he admires a lot. Ambassador Bahrin also admires the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and because of this named his son Kemal. The ambassador thinks that although Turkey and Indonesia may be far apart, the people of the two countries know each other through hajj (the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) and via their hearts. In an interview with Today's Zaman Ambassador Bahrin reiterates his happiness and pride because of the increasing trade volume between the two countries, especially after he was appointed to Turkey as ambassador a year ago.

"The name of my son, my second child, is Kemal because of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk," says Ambassador Bahrin, and smiles. He says his son was born in New York while he was working at his country's mission to the United Nations. "I was thinking about the name that I would give to my son. What it should be. Then I remembered Atatürk and what he did for his country. This is why I picked this name. For my son's second name, I chose Akram, in order to underline his Muslimhood," Ambassador Bahrin says. He adds that there are many things he admires about Turkey, one of which is Atatürk's legacy.

Work ethic and patriotism
Another feature of Turkey the ambassador likes is the hard-working character and national spirit of the Turks. According to him this spirit contributed to the longevity of the Ottoman Empire. "Turks are ready to endeavor for everything. They never give up. I see this not only in Turkey, but also with the Turks who live abroad. I was also able to observe this in Germany and Australia. Turks are hard-working people like the Japanese and Chinese. They also have a competitive character and fight for their future," he says.

When it comes to his country, Indonesia, he underlines that his people are also hard workers, but adds that his people do not so readily meet challenges. "We have this spirit, but we don't have as many challenges as you do. We don't have -20 degree temperatures, for example. In my country you can plant a seed today and eat its fruits the next day. So without working too much we are able to get our food from our environment," he underlines. According to him the very special spirit of the Turks lay at the core of the Ottoman Empire, too.

"If this spirit had not been there, the Ottoman Empire would not have survived for 600 years. This spirit is still there, it is also the founding element of the modern Turkish Republic and the economic development you're having now," Ambassador Bahrin says, adding, "It is impossible to imitate this spirit."

According to the ambassador, although the Turks' spirit may be inimitable, he is very proud of his country's diversity and unity. He underlines that the national motto of Indonesia is "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika," an old Javanese phrase literally meaning "in pieces, yet one." This roughly translates to "unity in diversity."

The motto is also written at the entrance of the Indonesian Embassy in Ankara. Ambassador Bahrin smiles as he says the motto and explains what it means: "We have a lot of islands. So many -- we have more than 17,500, although some are not inhabited. Some of the islands are very big, like Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. These are the heavily populated ones. Our population is almost 235 million. We have more than 700 tribes and more than 300 languages," he explains, and gives an example from his family: "For example my wife and I, we are both Indonesian but don't know each other's languages. I come from east Kalimantan and my wife is from Java. Our languages are totally different, but of course we both speak our official language, Indonesian."

He adds: "We are separated into islands, different tribes and languages, and we have so many cultures. However, thank God, we are united in one language and in one country and one sentence, which is 'Bhinneka Tunggal Ika'." Indonesia does not only have different cultures, languages, tribes and many islands, it also has a very colorful ecology. Its size, tropical climate and archipelagic geography support the world's second-highest level of biodiversity. It has many species -- forest covers approximately 60 percent of the country. Indonesia's 80,000 kilometers of coastline are surrounded by tropical seas, further contributing to the country's high biodiversity. But habitat destruction and industrialization threaten the survival of many species.

Ambassador Bahrin admits they have some difficulties protecting their biodiversity, although they are working hard to do so: "Our ecology is very rich. We have lots of jungles which are very good places for different kinds of animals and plants. We struggle to protect it. But in a huge area like Indonesia it can be difficult sometimes. We are also trying to pay special attention to endangered species."

Essentially, being an island state makes Indonesians very good sailors, Ambassador Bahrin says, but since his country is very large, it makes Indonesians less enthusiastic about traveling much or settling in other countries. He says: "The culture of people is influenced by the ocean. Since we are still a developing country we cannot explore the potential of the ocean completely. As you know, Indonesia covers a total area of more than 5 million square kilometers, of which 3 million are ocean and only 2 million land. This makes us good sailors and seamen, but we aren't eager to go abroad," he says, adding: "Our country offers many beauties. Although we do have a diaspora, we prefer to stay at home. Some of our citizens are abroad as foreign workers, but their numbers are not as high as those of Turks and Indians," he says.

Ambassador Bahrin says less than 100 Indonesians live in Turkey, including the embassy staff. Some of them are skilled workers, working for the Turkish airspace industry; there are almost 20 university students and five Indonesian are married to Turks and living in Turkey. The ambassador also thinks history and Indonesia's location make Indonesians uninterested in going and living abroad. "We are far from Europe and our territories have not had wars that forced people to migrate," he says. The ambassador also underlines that despite Indonesia's high population, it is not difficult to become an Indonesian citizen. "If you live there for five years or if you get married to an Indonesian, you can be naturalized. It is not difficult. Children born of mixed marriages can hold dual citizenship and their non-Indonesian parent can become a citizen as well," he says.

Ambassador Bahrin says he is proud of being an Indonesian citizen but that he does not know all of his country. "We are the world's most populated Muslim country and although we do have plenty, we are still developing. Our high-tech sector, in particular, needs improvement. We don't travel much as tourists because we are a poor country -- but even those who have been abroad always say they want to come back. Wherever I worked as a diplomat my fellow countrymen always said they wanted to return to their country when they retire because they wanted to be buried there."

Representing the largest Muslim population
When it comes to be being the ambassador of the most populated Muslim country, Mr. Bahrin says he does not have any special feelings about it but that he is proud of representing his country. He says he is happy to be in Ankara, his first post as an ambassador. Describing his work history, Mr. Bahrin says: "I am a career diplomat. I started as an attaché. I was counsel general in Hamburg, which was a very enjoyable assignment. There were 3,500 Indonesians over there. Prior to my post in Germany I was in the Netherlands. I served in Bonn, but when our embassy moved to Berlin, I then served in Berlin," he says.

Ambassador Bahrin has three children. The eldest is 26 years old, his son Kemal is 24 and his youngest son is 23. He says that at 59 he’s not trying to hide his age. “I run during the summer. I like playing golf, although there are no golf courses in Ankara. The whole day I stay on my feet and keep myself busy. I like to do things myself. If I need to get anything -- even at the embassy -- a document or anything else, I get it myself. I like doing everything myself, especially at home. I think the essence of life is to keep moving. If there is no movement, that is the end of life. My principle has always been that life is moving," he says.

Ambassador Bahrin's principle in diplomacy apart from being respectful of the host country's regulations, networking and searching for the potential between the two countries is to "increase the TTI," as he puts it, explaining what TTI is: "Trade, tourism and investment. As a diplomat my main principle is to increase them," he says. Ambassador Bahrin is proud because since he was appointed to Turkey one year ago, the trade volume has increased by $470 million.

"I am glad to report that in 2000 while we had a trade volume of only $202 million, the year 2006 saw that number climb to $1.1 billion. Last year we saw almost $1.5 billion in trade volume. Such a large increase in one year is very significant."

Mr. Ambassador says trade volume is in Indonesia's favor. Turkey is buying wood, furniture, palm oil and other items from his country. He says that tourism is also developing, but that there is a problem in the investment part of his TTI formula: "Turkey's direct investments in Indonesia are very small. The main reason for this has been the distance between the two countries. It takes 16 hours to fly to Indonesia," he says. Despite this distance, Ambassador Bahrin thinks Turks and Indonesians know each other from relations they establish during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

"Our hajj quota amounts to 200,000 people every year. A lot of our citizens go to Mecca. There when they see the crescent and the star on your flag, they know they are interacting with the Turks. I know many Indonesians and Turks who say they met each other during the hajj. Both of them think the same of the other: they are very kind, smile all the time and are disciplined," the ambassador says.

He adds that 2004's earthquake in Indonesia and the tsunami that ensued, despite being a tragic event, helped a lot in developing relations: "In the 16th century there were some Ottoman soldiers in Aceh. Some of them stayed there. So the people of Aceh consider themselves as people who have Turkish blood. After the earthquake, Turkish volunteers came and worked very hard to help the people. When they left, the Indonesian people were very sad. Although we may be very far from one another geographically, we know each other through our hearts."
26.02.2008 Ayse Karabat Ankara

Ethiopian Ambassador: Ethiopia Does Not Need Political Reform
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The Ethiopian ambassador to Turkey says Ethiopia is lucky to have a society rich in diversity and that members of all the country’s different ethnicities consider themselves Ethiopian.

The people of Ethiopia brought in the new Ethiopian millennium on Sep. 12, 2007. Ethiopians do not attach any particular religious meaning to the new millennium like some countries in the West; for them the millennium is all about looking to the future.

Ethiopians regard the new millennium as a period in which they will take their place among the emerging countries of the world. They see it as a time for growth for their ancient country. That is why Today's Zaman chose to speak to Ethiopian Ambassador to Turkey Malutu Teshome.

Mr. Ambassador, why does the Ethiopian millennium fall at a different time than the one celebrated by much of the world?

The Ethiopian calendar is a slightly revised version of the Julian calendar. The Western world uses the Gregorian calendar, which was actually a later invention. Ethiopians stuck to their old tradition and continued with the Orthodox calendar, which is seven or eight years behind the Gregorian one. This is also about the firm belief in the Orthodox Church as it is the original, the authentic one. The Roman Catholics and other religious groups all came in later periods.

Do the Ethiopian people attach any special religious meaning to the millennium, like a second coming of Jesus?

Some of the clergy hold such expectations, but the country as a whole sees this as a time to look to the future while also preserving the ancient culture of Ethiopia.

What do you mean by ancient?

Ethiopia is a very ancient country, a country that has a history of more than 3,000 years. It is referred to as the "cradle of mankind." It is where Lucy, the world's oldest-known almost complete hominid skeleton -- more than 3.3 million years old -- was discovered by an archaeology team. Recently, archeologists also found the skeleton of a 3-year-old girl, "Selam," who died 3.45 million years ago, in the Afar region of eastern Ethiopia.

When you said future, were you referring to the people's political and economic expectations for the new millennium?

Yes, indeed. Ethiopia is a very ancient country, but its economy does not reflect its history and tradition. Ethiopia is still a very backward country. So the aspiration of the Ethiopian people is to make Ethiopia, within the next two decades, rank near the middle among all countries for per capita income. That calls for very rapid economic development, of course. The new millennium for Ethiopia is regarded as a new chapter in our history.

Do you see any political reforms coming in the future?

Frankly speaking, Ethiopia does not need any political reform. We previously were ruled by a monarchy. It was banned in 1975 with the Ethiopian Revolution. From 1975 to 1991 Ethiopia was ruled by a military dictatorship and was regarded a socialist country. Of course, neither one brought modernity to Ethiopia. During that period Ethiopia did not even approach democracy. In 1991 a new era started; the military dictatorship was overthrown, and we started drawing up a new constitution. This is a constitution based on the modern thinking of democratic governance that recognizes private ownership. But what really makes the Ethiopian Constitution new and democratic is the fact that it was drafted through popular participation in a process that lasted from 1991 to 1995.

By 1995 the constitution was adopted, and in compliance with this new constitution we held elections. The elections take place every five years. What we need is to practice what is contained within the constitution, not more political reform. We have a very good constitutional framework; what is expected from the government is to realize what is written there.

Every country has its problems. What do you see as the main ones Ethiopia faces?

Ethiopia is lucky to have a very diverse society. All of these different ethnicities say they belong to their tribes, but when it comes to their country they are all Ethiopian. They have only one roof over them, and that roof is Ethiopia. Having said that, we of course had problems in the past and we still have some. These come mainly in the form of terrorist groups which are manipulated mainly from abroad.

Are these separatist groups or otherwise?

Well, these groups don't have civilian demands. Sometimes they use the slogans of a given regime or ethnic group and demand more freedom and more economic development. We have no problem with that. What we are against is taking up arms and sabotaging the security of the population. Unfortunately most of these terrorist groups are linked to Eritrea. You know, Eritrea was a province of Ethiopia in the past, and today it is cultivating these elements within Ethiopia.

What is the reason for this enmity?

Eritrea was once a province of Ethiopia. It received independence through a referendum in 1991. Before that there was not a clear boundary, because Eritrea was a part of Ethiopia. The division between Eritrea and Ethiopia is not ethnic or national. That part of Ethiopia was occupied by the Italians for 63 years and during the occupation they developed a separate identity. Today the two identities are clashing.

When we speak of Ethiopia, we use the term "Gateway of Africa." Does this label seem accurate to you?

I think it is quite accurate. Geographically its location in the northeastern part of Africa makes Ethiopia best placed strategically in its region. You can fly easily from there to the Middle East, to Asia and to Europe. Of course, this is facilitated by Ethiopian Airlines. It flies to almost all countries in Africa. In addition, the headquarters of the African Union is in Ethiopia; the headquarters of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa is also in Addis Ababa. And many international regional headquarters are there. So basically Ethiopia is the capital of Africa.

When were diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Turkey established?

Our relations reach back to the Ottoman period, to the 1560s. But real diplomatic relations started just before World War I. Ethiopia had very close contacts with the sultan of the Ottomans at that time, and in 1912 a Turkish Consulate was opened in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was the only independent country in Africa then and it was the only country recognized as a state. In 1925 Turkey opened its embassy in Addis Ababa. Turkey was the sixth country to open an embassy in Ethiopia. Ethiopia also had an embassy in Ankara. Our emperor, Haile Selassie, visited Turkey two times. But in 1975, after the socialist revolution, Ethiopia closed down its embassy. For a long time we didn't have a presence in Ankara; we reopened our embassy only in 2006. Today the relations between Turkey and Ethiopia are excellent, both politically and economically. We have no conflicts of interest and we support each other on international platforms. We are enjoying strong economic relations and witnessing a growing number of Turkish investors coming to Ethiopia. Our mutual trade has grown from nothing to approximately $200 million annually, and our target is $500 million.

When we speak about Ethiopians in Turkey, the Queen of Sheba comes to mind. Is this a myth or a historical reality?

The Queen of Sheba is not a myth. If you go to the northern part of Ethiopia, to Aksu, you can see the ruins of her palace. She was the empress of Ethiopia and having heard of a powerful emperor in the north, she visited Solomon. They fell in love and on her way back to Ethiopia she became pregnant. After she returned she gave birth to a boy and named him Menelik. Menelik I was the emperor, the son of Solomon. That line actually ruled Ethiopia until 1975.

So the family of the emperor is the family of Solomon. Does the family still have social and religious importance in Ethiopia?

From the first emperor to the last, they were highly respected and were considered gods among people. The emperor was called King of Kings, Elect of God, Lion of Judah, Emperor of Emperors. After 1975 that respect faded; the members of the royal family left the country, some were imprisoned and even after their release they left for England and the US. Some, of course, returned after the change in political regime, but as only common citizens. They are no longer a threat to the democracy. They know that the Lion of Judah is not going to return to power.

The Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia also?

It is in Ethiopia, again in Aksu. Every year on Nov. 28 or 29 Ethiopians organize a very big celebration around the temple where the ark is kept. Not only the ark, but also the true cross, as people call it, is in Ethiopia. So there is potential for religious tourism. I invite Turks to come and invest in Ethiopia, but also to visit Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, and our national parks. Ethiopia's natural beauty, in my opinion, is not comparable to that of any other country in the world.
25.03.2008 Kerim Balci Ankara - Zaman

 © This content Mirrored From TurkishArmenians  SiteAyşe Karabat (far right) in the company of Russian Ambassador Vladimir Ivanovskiy (second from right), his wife Irina Ivanovskiy (third from right) and other Russian diplomats.

Feb. 10 marks a special day for Russian diplomats. They take pride in this day and advise their colleagues from other countries to institute a similar day for themselves. . .

Although they work on that day as they prepare official celebrations, they nonetheless celebrate it in more informal ways. We spoke with Russian Federation Ambassador to Turkey Vladimir Ivanovskiy, who explained the history of diplomacy in his country as well as its main principles. He says that although it is not easy to work with Turkish diplomats, he does enjoy working with them. On this topic the ambassador said that the Russian Embassy is planning to sponsor an exhibit on Turkish-Russian relations with never before published documents and pictures.

"We want to increase the number of Turkish brides in our society. This is why I wanted to give this interview along with my colleagues from the embassy. We do, of course, have many more handsome diplomats here," says Ambassador Ivanovskiy, laughing, just one of the numerous jokes he made during the interview. The Russian Embassy is preparing to celebrate Diplomats' Day on Feb. 10 and for this reason, Ambassador Ivanovskiy says, he thought it would be a good idea for some of his colleagues to be present during the interview.

"Do you see this tea set?" the ambassador asks, pointing to a silver tea set located in the residential part of the embassy. The tea set is kept inside a glass enclosure. Ambassador Ivanovskiy explains: "The set, a witness to Turkish-Russian relations, is more than 100 years old and was used by former diplomats here to serve tea to their Turkish counterparts." This tea set, whose pieces each held a fresh mint leaf, witnessed our entire interview.

A full house

In the course of our interview, Ambassador Ivanovskiy, while explaining Diplomats' Day and the embassy's plans for the day, continuously offered chocolate, saying, "This is Russian chocolate." The ambassador spoke in Russian, and translation into Turkish was handled by a very young diplomat, Konstantin Ryzhak, who the ambassador underlined several times was single and available. Undersecretary Aleusandz Kolesnikov, a Turkologist and a historian, Dmitry Zykov, the deputy head of the mission, and Anton Kazakov, a press attaché, joined us for the interview as well.

To explain Diplomats' Day, Ambassador Ivanovskiy said: "We will celebrate our Foreign Ministry's 206th year this year, though its history stretches further back than this. The first state office responsible for diplomatic affairs was established in 1549. During the time of Peter the Great, this office was enlarged and became the establishment responsible for foreign relations. One of the first important steps taken by this office was to send permanent representatives to the countries that were important to Russia at that time. It had permanent embassies located in Paris, Vienna, London and İstanbul. This was the case in 1701. The Foreign Ministry in its modern sense was established in 1802. This is the period of history our ministry belongs to, a period in which Turkey has always held a very important place."

Although the ambassador does not know if any other country celebrates Diplomats' Day, he wishes to highlight that Russia sets aside a day of celebration for various professions. "I advise my Turkish colleagues to introduce such a day for themselves also," he says with a smile.

He is quick to point out that Diplomats' Day is not a day the diplomats have off. Ambassador Ivanovskiy says: "We spend this day working. On Feb. 8 we will sponsor a reception to which our Turkish colleagues have been invited. This day will also be a holiday for us that we will celebrate unofficially. And it is unimaginable for us to have a holiday devoid of vodka!"

To mark this year's Diplomats' Day, the Russian Embassy plans to sponsor an exhibit on Turkish-Russian diplomatic ties. "We will display pictures and documents from Russia's state archives. Most of them are unknown, and there are many wonderful pictures among them," he says, showing us some examples.

One of the examples is a letter bearing the signature of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. The letter, addressed to Lenin, begins with "Comrade President" and informs Lenin that Ali Fuad Paşa was appointed the Turkish ambassador. The letter is dated Nov. 22, 1920.

There are also pictures from the 1930s that show representatives of the Soviet Union taking part in receptions and celebrations with their Turkish colleagues. Some of the photos are from May 1 and others from the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The exhibition is slated to take place at the Turkish Historical Society (TTK) in September.

One of the pictures shows the first embassy of the Soviet Union in Ankara -- a typical old Ankara building located near the former center of the city, the Ankara castle. The ambassador said the building was later moved to Atatürk Boulevard and is still maintained but that the main building was constructed in 1963 on Karyağdı Sokak in Yukarı Ayrancı. There are consular buildings in İstanbul and like the ambassador, most of the embassy's staff has İstanbul experience as well.

It is not necessary to be a career diplomat, but it is important to firmly hold onto one's principles, says the ambassador. "We cannot say that our entire staff is composed of career diplomats. For example, Mr. Kolesnikov served in the science field for quite some time, and Mr. Zykov comes from the business world. The ministry has many experts from various fields. We also have a school in the ministry, and I am a graduate of this school. Mr. Kolesnikov was a lecturer there," the ambassador says. He adds, jokingly, "He was supposed to teach me Turkish, but because my Turkish is very bad, he gave up."

The ambassador also wanted to stress the importance of Turkology in their system. "Our Turkology school is very strong. It was strong in Soviet times and it is strong today," he says, adding that in general, they prefer to admit university graduates of international relations departments, but that they do admit graduates from other departments. The goal is to provide them with an education and make them professional diplomats.

"The ambassador does not always necessarily have to be professional, but the embassy staff must always be," Ambassador Ivanovskiy says. When asked what kind of boss he is, Ivanovskiy smiles and says, "You should ask my staff."

Improving relations

The embassy staff, says the ambassador, knows Turkey very well and loves Turkey. Qualifying this statement, the ambassador says: "They are aware of the interests of both their own country as well as those of the country they serve in. The main goal is to improve bilateral relations. Our diplomacy is based on being realistic and wise and using common sense. Our ministers and the president follow these same principles, as well."

When I asked his colleagues about what kind of boss Ambassador Ivanovskiy was, not one of them wanted to say anything, but they all did smile. Upon seeing their reaction, the ambassador laughed and asked, "Isn't it obvious from their faces?" One of his colleagues then raised his voice and said: "We didn't choose our boss as he was appointed by our president, but even though we did not choose him, we find it easy to work with him. He is very respectful." But he quickly added, "Don't write that, other colleagues will joke around with us." And with that, they all laughed.

This is not Ambassador Ivanovskiy's first time in Turkey. He previously served as a junior diplomat and then was appointed ambassador. Prior to Turkey Ambassador Ivanovskiy served as a diplomat and an ambassador to Yugoslavia. "I think it is a good idea to be appointed ambassador to a country in which you have served before. It is very important that ambassadors know the country very well. My entire staff has served in Turkey before. I served as consul general in İstanbul. Our professional abilities do not change from country to country nor does our ability to interact with locals, thereby improving relations between our two countries," he says.

The ambassador cites Mr. Kolesnikov, who came to Turkey 30 years ago, as an example. "Turkey has become my second country," he says, adding that he began as a translator and 30 years later found himself with another country that he can call home -- a change definitely interesting to witness, he says. Mr. Zykov's first experience with Turkey took place in 1992 when he worked for a private company. And the embassy's press attaché, Kazakov, started working at Russia's consulate in İstanbul in 1992 and was later appointed to Ankara. Using an informal Turkish expression, "Türkiye'nin hastasıyım [I am crazy about Turkey]," he shows how big a fan of Turkey he is.

Mr. Ryzhak's experience is not too different from that of his colleagues. "I lived in İstanbul for one year when I was a student in 2003. I also served as an intern then. What I like most about Turkey is its people. I feel a great affinity for Turkish people. They are very hospitable and very friendly," he says.

The entire embassy staff present at the interview agreed that they liked İstanbul very much. "It is a very cosmopolitan, very colorful and very historical city. It definitely has more history compared to Ankara, but we are happy in Ankara, too," they said.

When the topic of culture comes up, the staff proudly brings up Russian literature. Although pinpointing a favorite is difficult, Mr. Kazakov says he likes Russian folklore stories and fairy tales. Mr. Kolesnikov, though, prefers Nazım Hikmet, a famous Turkish poet.

Taking risks

Our conversation moved on from literature to Russian roulette. Ambassador Ivanovskiy smiled, clearly planning another joke. "Russian roulette means playing with destiny. Russians have an inclination toward adventure. This has deep roots, and more scientific inquiry needs to be done on the topic," he says. "There are many things in common between Turks and us. Both countries have crazy drivers. This is something Europeans have a difficulty understanding -- as is the case with their understanding of Russian roulette," he adds.

When asked to comment on his Turkish colleagues, Ambassador Ivanovskiy says: "We have great respect for our Turkish colleagues. I made great friendships during the Soviet era and continue to do so today. I'd like to say that they are highly professional. They are very well educated and realistic.

"We have great respect for our Turkish colleagues. I had great friendships during the Soviet era and now. I want to say that they are great professionals. They are very well educated, realistic, and it is very pleasant to work with them. It is not easy to work with them because, of course, the interests of the both countries do not always overlap. However, Turkish diplomats defend their country's interests in a very focused and successful way. This makes working with them not easy but nevertheless pleasant."