Ambassador sings Turkey’s praises

Murat Salim Esenli. Photo by AA

ROME - The Turkish Ambassador to Italy, Murat Salim Esenli, spoke at a conference on Wednesday about Turkey’s success as a world power, in light of recent media criticism. He presented Turkey as being at the epicentre of a geopolitical “earthquake,” situated as it is, at the crossroads between EU member states, former Soviet countries, and the Middle East. The Ambassador aimed to set the record straight, as he saw it - Turkey has seen a 7% rise in growth from 2011-2017, and is still a flourishing entrepreneurial centre.

 The platform for this expression was the “Festival of Diplomacy,” which aims to celebrate and further develop Roman multiculturalism. The city’s interest in foreign affairs could clearly be seen in the crowd of journalists that came to hear Salim Esenli. Even when speaking directly to The Insider, the Ambassador continued to stress the importance of Italian -Turkish relations: he referenced the Ottoman Turks sending envoys to Italy in 1342 as an example of their historic relationship that goes “above politics.” In his view, Italy and Turkey are united in their positions of aiding refugees in Libya and Syria. Indeed, Italy has felt the full force of the migrant crisis as one of the main entrances for people attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Above all, he proudly referenced Italy’s continued support of Turkey’s full EU membership - a bid 10 years in the works.

 The panel also featured Valeria Giannotta, a lecturer at the Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, and Germano Dottori, former consultant to the Italian Senate on foreign affairs. The Italian Giannotta has been living and working in Turkey for many years, and spoke passionately about the state of emergency that has existed in Turkey since the foiled coup against President Erdogan in 2016. In her view, residents are living in a “suspended democracy,” with some rights, such as freedom of expression and assembly, momentarily on hold. However, in contrast to popular media portrayals of the situation in Turkey, she described the day-to-day life of a Turk as stable, and not much changed since the political disturbance last year.

 These presentations were brought to an end by Dottori’s questioning. He asked whether Turkey could be seen as ambitious in its history of mingling in its neighboursaffairs, and whether its simultaneous partnerships with the EU and Russia could be viewed as an “experiment.” In response to the idea that Turkey could be “ambitious,” the Ambassador preferred the term “assertive,” in that Turkey has had to hold its own due partly to its geographic position. He argued that Turkey has been one of the most outspoken and quick to act countries in times of crisis, such as in Iran, or in agreeing to receive migrants from Syria.

 From this, the Ambassador presented Turkey as not just an experiment in its mission to hold deep bonds with multiple countries, but as a role model. He batted away the suggestion that Turkey could be swayed towards following a course with Russia of which it didn’t approve, likening their relationship to that of husband or wife - they do not agree on every issue, but the partnership still remains harmonious.

 Ambassador Salim Esenli remarked that Turkey’s relations with the United States were following a similar vein. Bearing in mind that Italy is in prime position as Turkey’s fifth biggest trading partner, it can be hoped that Turkish - Italian relations shall also stay as stable.