AT: Dear Ms Nurten Ural, thank you for giving us this interview.
And I would like to start here addressing you my congratulations: you recently were re-elected as a President of the Consular Corps of Michigan.
N.U.:Thank you so much. I have been the Honorary Consul General of Turkey since 2004. The past two years I have been the President of the Consular Corps of Michigan. We have around fifty members each representing a different country, of which eight are Career Consul General and the rest are Honorary Consul Generals. This year I got re-elected again and promised the Consular Corps that I will serve for one more year and then pass this position on to someone new.
AT: The period of 8 years has passed since your first interview to AT. It is a rather long time for the world of nowadays, where political trends go developed so dynamically. Now Turkey has enhanced its weight and turned to be a global actor with really important voice. And as you are Honorary Consul General of The Republic of Turkey and also President of the Consular Corps of Michigan, can you tell our readers what kind of new minds, new concerns and new visions of Turkey are being formed among American communities and political structures?
N.U.:Yes, it is hard to believe that so many years have passed by. A lot has changed in Turkey since than with instability outside of its borders in neighboring Syria and Iraq the terrorist groups inside and outside Turkey and Russia.
With these issues I believe Turkey needs to reform and focus on improving its macroeconomic fundamentals, competitiveness and the business environment.
For the past few years I have been concentrating on the economic and educational aspects of Turkey-US relations. The commercial relations between Turkey and the U.S. gained a new meaning and perspective with the first overseas bilateral official visit of the President Barak Obama to Turkey in 2009. During the visit, the leadership of both governments reached a high level consensus to bring the bilateral economic, commercial, investment and technological dimensions of the relationship to a higher level.
With this I decided to end my career chapter of doing interior architecture and three years ago, I started Turkish Resource Center of North America to help with these efforts. Since than we have organized three large conferences in Turkey. The first one was Research and Development in Industry, where we took 75 Americans to Istanbul. The second conference was on Creative Economies in Istanbul as well, where we took 45 Americans. Last one was One Health Conference in Konya. Along with Conferences we have taken around 25 delegations in various sectors to Turkey and around 8 delegations from Turkey to the US to help them find the right partners to do work with and export their products to the other country or to establish businesses in the other country.
AT: When you overview 12 years of your activities as Honorary Consul General from the eye of a Turkish woman, what would you mention as your most sufficient success in strengthening American-Turkish relations?
N.U.:Economics, business, research & development and education being the most important things to help in the economics of a country and also in the relationship of two countries, I believe my efforts in these areas have had many success stories and helped in these efforts.
AT: It is not a secret at all that Armenian lobby applies huge financial resources aiming to form public opinion for the worldwide admission of their claim that in 1915 in Turkey there was committed genocide against Armenians. How does the Turkish Embassy together with Turkish lobby in the USA take steps against that company of the fib genocide?
N.U.:Unfortunately some of the Armenian Diaspora does not realize that they are doing more damage to themselves and their country by continuing and concentrating their efforts on the past instead of looking forward to the future with peace. No one is denying that this was a time of war and many Armenians were killed, however so was many Turks at the time.
The Turkish and Azerbaijani governments, along with the Turkish and Azerbaijani organizations work together to defend themselves against the fib genocide and have accomplished to do this recently. Having 154 Turkish Caucus members is one accomplishment to prove this.
AT: Up to 2008 you were President of the American-Turkish Assembly. What was the reason for your decision to leave that public activity?
N.U.: The Assembly of Turkish American Associations has two year term limits. One is elected President Elect and serves two years as President Elect. Then serves two years as President and then two years as Past President. This system assures continuity as well as allowing new people in the top levels. I first started serving on the board and then was elected as President Elect in 2004 and continued. I was first and only women President up to know. I still help in any way that I can. Last few years, I served on the nomination committee as chairman. Just this past weekend I was speaker on one of the panels in their Annual Conference.
AT: Being an Azerbaijani I would like to know if you cooperate or not with Azerbaijani Diaspora and public organizations in the USA. If you do, then what are the main agenda points of you meetings with them?
N.U.:Yes, we cooperate with our Azerbaijani friends at every opportunity. For example, we work together on political issues in the US, especially on the Armenian issues.
Since now a large amount of my time is spent on bilateral commercial and economic relations between Turkey and the United States, I would like to eventually start working with Azerbaijan. Perhaps some friends in Azerbaijan may want to partner with me on these projects?
I also work on university education projects between Turkey and the United States, such as student and faculty exchanges. As well as partnering on research and development and bringing products to market.
We have also created customized educational programs for different markets in some of the US universities to help Turkish businesses become stronger, especially in the US market.
AT: What do you think about perspectives for the Turkic World, i.e. Turkish speaking states to act jointly as a perfect political actor in the close future?
N.U.:I know Turkey is trying to get into the European Union. Although I think Europe needs Turkey more than Turkey needs Europe, personally I do not believe this will ever happen.
I am a big fan of the Turkic world getting together and strengthening their solidarity as well as enhancing the existing educational, economic and political cooperation among all the Turkic countries. The potential is huge in developing regional cooperation among these countries, especially in economic dimensions.
AT: And in connection with the previous question, please few words about the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project. Besides its main commercial function, the project route will also unite the railway systems of Turkish speaking states. Do you think it will speed up the process of the Turkic World’s political integration as well?
N.U.:Yes, I think the Baku-Tbilsi-Kars railway will have a big impact and will surely have economic and political consequences. Needless to say, Azerbaijan will have the biggest benefit of this by being connected to Europe much easier by using Turkey’s port and railway connections. Turkey will have connections to China, etc. Economic relations will improve among the three countries it will effect, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Later other countries will also connect.
AT: You are professional architect and designer, and for a long while you successfully hold a business in the real estate sector. What can you tell our readers about these your activities? Thank you!
N.U.:Yes, for 32 years I had my own company as an interior architect. We did complete design and renovation of commercial interiors. I also dabble in owning real estate and management of these properties.
As indicated before, three years ago, I decided to get into a new chapter in my career life. With the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation (FSECC), established in 2010 by Presidents Obama and Gul, and with President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan established a parallel dialogue, the High Level Committee (HLC), as a forum for deepening U.S.-Turkey trade relations, I saw a lot of potential to help with these efforts. Between Turkey and the US, I saw that many companies want to do business or partner with companies in the other country, but were hesitant to take the step.
I also noticed the universities were the same way in partnering with the other countries’ universities. With my experience in business and my knowledge of business culture on both sides, I thought I could be of help. That is why I started Turkish Resource Center of North America.