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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Turkey

16th October 2012

48 hours in Istanbul

It’s after midnight on a Friday and I’m waiting at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport to meet FCO Europe Minister David Lidington off a late flight from London. The airport is packed with people as passengers pour into a city which for over 2,000 years has been a crossroads between Europe and Asia.

One of the first words any student of Turkish learns is kalabalık, meaning ‘crowded’. The intensity of traffic through Atatürk airport, like the packed pavements, hotels and congress centres of the city, is symptomatic of the pivotal role which Istanbul, like the rest of Turkey, is playing in 21st century business and politics.

It also helps to explain why the UK has identified Turkey as one of the top emerging powers with which we must strengthen our economic, cultural and political ties.

The 48 hours surrounding Mr Lidington’s arrival help show what that means. On Thursday evening Lord Green, Minister for Trade and Investment, arrives and heads straight into a networking event with British Business missions from Northern Ireland and London and the South East.

On Friday Lord Green meets British exporters and financial service providers; Turkish inward investors, including a visit to the Florence Nightingale Hospital Group who are opening a new European HQ in London; and visits the UK-Turkey Business Forum and the UK-Turkey CEO Forum.

On Saturday, Mr Lidington and Lord Green attend the UK-Turkish Tatlıdil conference and the Istanbul World Forum; and complete a further intense programme of meetings including bilaterals with Finance Minister Şimşek and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu.

All this comes just a week after a visit to Turkey by Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Business and Enterprise Minister Michael Fallon, and a major conference in London with Turkish law enforcement experts to deepen our cooperation on counter-terrorism and organised crime.

One of the high value opportunities which British companies are pursuing in Turkey is the proposed new third Istanbul airport, due to open in a few years with a capacity of 120 million passengers. Based on the traffic I have seen over my first few weeks in Istanbul there is every sign of the city’s role as an international crossroads continuing to prosper.

3 comments on “48 hours in Istanbul

  1. Dear Mr. Leigh Turner,
    at least I do hope that I ´m able to read BETWEEN the lines of your excellent report. For – 1st. – I still think that ” Time is relative…” (A. Einstein). Interpreted by me – after I had read your article twice – like: What kind of sense does it make at all if Europe Minister Mr. David Livington is sitting in re. of the ” Top Emerging Power ” Turkey and the UK-Turkish negotiations and / or meetings cause of this “Business Forum ” for, i.e. 48 days within the context of (endless?) talks and discussions ? Esp. – if he can handle and solve most topics in 48 hrs. To me it ´s still the QUALITY and not the QUANTITY of the achieved results that ´s important. And -logical- also the solved “problems”.That ´s why I do full agree to you that the City of Istanbul – an Euro-Asian meelting point – was one of the most perfect places to do and act like Minister Livington did.
    Istanbul is in my opinion the key for a good UK-Turkish relationship and the door-opener to the Turkish-Market. You described it well as an “…international crossroad…”.Thanks also for this “Business and Enterprise ” – link. So, with all of my respect, I don ´t agree to the comment of Mr. Zargana. BW, Ingo-Steven Wais, Stuttgart/Cardiff

  2. Only 48 hours for Istanbul! It is not enough time for a city which is smelling history and culture of all civilazitions. I think David Lidington was unlucky. I lived nearly 10 years in Istanbul (Bakırköy) and not able to see the all wonders of Istanbul altought this long time period.

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.