dimanche 7 février 2010

Ambassador Serdar Kılıç and the Lebanese Turkmens

Hasan Kanbolat, Director of ORSAM

Turkey’s ambassador in Beirut, Serdar Kılıç, has been assigned to the National Security Council’s (MGK) Secretariat-General. This means that Kılıç, among the most successful figures in the Foreign Ministry, has in his first year of an expected four-year term at the Turkish Embassy in Beirut become the secretary-general of the MGK.

Born in 1958, Kılıç is a diplomat with NATO experience. His appointment is also a continuation of the tradition of appointing diplomats with experience in Greece, Cyprus and the Middle East to the position.

The MGK secretary-general position had been empty for a long time. Helmed by ambassadors from Aug. 17, 2004 to the present, the last person to serve in the spot -- Tahsin Burcuoğlu, who had also served as the Middle East manager in the Foreign Ministry -- left the post when he was appointed Turkey’s ambassador in Paris. Before Burcuoğlu, a former ambassador in Athens, assumed the post, it had been filled for the first time by a civilian when Ambassador Yiğit Alpogan -- who was also ambassador in Athens before becoming secretary-general -- was assigned. Discussions had been started over whether the MGK’s Secretariat-General -- the cerebrum of critical meetings that bring together the military with civilians and the institution that prepares national security policy documents -- could be sliding steadily from the Foreign Ministry toward the Ministry of the Interior. However, the expected developments did not take place. No local governor has been appointed MGK secretary-general.

Kılıç, who accompanied Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on his visit to Turkey, met with Hariri and representatives of Hezbollah to enable the efficient evacuation of Turks during the 2008 clashes in Lebanon. Kılıç’s success was praised by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May 2008: “The ambassador in Beirut was able to conduct meetings during a very difficult period in which other ambassadors weren’t able to leave their homes due to armed clashes. He went to Hariri’s office. Hezbollah didn’t stop [Kılıç]. He even explained how when he and Hariri were speaking, it was difficult to understand one another because of the sounds of gunfire coming from outside…” Kılıç’s role during the period of clashes with Hezbollah in Lebanon was later upheld as a role model by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at an ambassadors’ conference.

While taking the initiative in terms of both political and economic relations between Turkey and Lebanon, Kılıç also helped increase awareness of ethnic Turks in Lebanon, a nation somewhat disconnected from both Turkey and the world at large. Kılıç determined where Turkish villages in Lebanon were located and visited them, cementing ties between Lebanese Turkmens and Turkey. This ensured that the Turkmens of Lebanon would become a bridge of friendship between Turkey and Lebanon. It was also with Kılıç’s encouragement that the Middle East Strategic Research Center (ORSAM) published a report entitled “The Forgotten Turks: Turkmens of Lebanon,” dated February 2010.

As a result of Kılıç’s efforts, the number of scholarships Turkey set aside for Lebanese Turkmens to study at Turkish universities was doubled from two to four. The construction of a school in the Turkish village of Kawashra was completed, as was a health clinic for use by Akkar Turkmens, with Foreign Minister Davutoğlu attending the inauguration. Turkish lessons are now being given to Akkar Turkmens and Cretan Turks living in Tripoli. A project to dig a well for drinking water in the Turkmen village of Aydamun, made possible by the Turkish Embassy, is ongoing; a Turkish language teacher is also giving lessons to the residents of Aydamun, and a school will soon be constructed there as well. Kılıç became the first official from Turkey to visit the Baalbek Turkmens, and now the Turkish Embassy has completed the construction of a school in Duris for the Baalbek Turkmens and is working to build another in Addus. Work is ongoing for the establishment of Turkish cultural centers in Duris, Akkar and Beirut.

The Lebanese people will not soon forget Kılıç, who during his short time in Lebanon left considerable impressions in terms of friendship and fraternity.

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