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US developer diplomat eyes law in Turkey

ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News | 9/20/2008 12:00:00 AM | By KRISTEN STEVENS

An American lawyer working in a top law firm in Turkey and the man behind the relocation process of the U.S. consulate in İstinye, Gary Lachman moved to Turkey for love. He discusses considerations for selecting and purchasing land for consulates and embassies abroad – before and after Islamist terror shifted U.S. priorities

Special counsel on foreign law to one of Turkey's major law firms, American Gary Lachman knows his way around emerging markets. He was in charge of the selection and acquisition of sites for new American embassies and consulates around the world before and after 9/11. In 1999, he chose İstinye as the new site for the U.S. consulate in Istanbul. While at the U.S. State Department from 1998 to 2006, he negotiated bilateral treaties on behalf of the U.S. government and transacted business in over 40 countries.

Prior to the car bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1998, the purpose of his office at the State Department was to replace facilities abroad that were inadequate for service. “After those events the priority turned to upgrading security for U.S. facilities around the world,” Lachman told the Turkish Daily News. “It was interesting and encouraging after 9/11 that most countries and individuals showed considerable understanding and support for the new requirements”, he added.

Lachman is currently working with “a major European government” to replace and upgrade security and functionality of their facilities around the world. His first project is in Washington. He said he saw the effects of the bombing of the British consulate in Istanbul resonate beyond the region. “When the British facilities were attacked I think all the diplomatic missions began to reassess their security conditions,” Lachman said.

Securing American property abroad

At the U.S. State Department his first deal was the acquisition of land for the American consulate in Zagreb, Croatia, followed by dealings in countries including Pakistan, Ghana, Panama and Mexico. Lachman coordinated investigations, studies, and reports with geotechnical, structural, and environmental experts to assess the feasibility of land deals. He also worked to secure the U.S. purchase of half of the University of Sarajevo, most of which had been bombed out during the Bosnian War. “The proceeds of the sale would help rebuild the university, and the U.S. got the best land in the city for a new Embassy,” Lachman stated as an example of a win/win deal.Lachman led a team in securing a bilateral treaty on reciprocal property rights in Azerbaijan. “We wanted to acquire additional parcels of land surrounding the embassy for security setback,” he said. The long-sought agreement nearly unraveled with the failing health of then-President Heydar Aliyev, father of current President Ilham Aliyev. “I think he signed the papers on a hospital bed in the U.S.,” Lachman recalled.  
From NYC to Turkey for love

Lachman was born and raised in New York City where his grandfather and father were  real estate developers and investors in a family business founded in 1915. He received a B.A. from Duke University and a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree from the University of Denver's law school. Lachman remained in Denver, where he began his professional career as a real estate attorney.

Prior to his turn as a U.S. diplomatic official, Lachman was president of a regional homebuilding and land development company in Washington D.C. He continues to serve as a director of a company that owns and manages luxury high-rise residential properties in the U.S. and Canada. A member of the practicing faculty of Johns Hopkins University, he has taught a Masters level course in international real estate investment and development. Under contract with publisher Urban Land Institute, he is writing a book on real estate investment, development, and law in emerging markets. Lachman met his “permanent fiancée”, Dalia Garih, about five years ago. He is quick to say that he “moved to Turkey for love”, smiling broadly for the first time during the conversation. Garih is Turkey's honorary consul to Uruguay and the daughter of the late Dr. Üzeyir Garih. Garih was a prominent Turkish businessman and a founding partner of the Alarko group, where Dalia is on the Board of Directors. In 2001 Garih was murdered in an Istanbul graveyard while visiting to the tomb of a Sufi sheikh, whose teachings he admired. 
Black tie inclusion

Lachman moved to Istanbul in 2007 but began making friends and business acquaintances here a decade ago. Calling his new home one of the top four or five cities in the world, Lachman said Turks are more social and have a stronger concept of family than in the U.S. “Here more people know each other and actually do things together.” In the U.S. the only way to see people in black tie and gowns is at a charity event that costs $500 to $1,000 a ticket. Here, people do it just for fun,” he said, adding that Washington, D.C. is asleep compared to Istanbul. “They go to bed at 10:00 p.m. there.”

Drawn to the level of personal generosity and inclusiveness he has encountered in Istanbul, Lachman said, “The most amazing thing is that virtually every time we go out, Muslims, Christians and Jews are in our midst,” he said. He sees American social life as more structured, insular and exclusive in terms of religious identity. Even though Turkey's populations of hundreds of thousands of Greeks, Armenians and Jews have dwindled to approximately 5,000, 50,000 and 26,000 respectively, Lachman was upbeat about religious harmony in the city. “In the rest of the world, where can you find a similar mix of people besides Paris and New York?” 

Security and prestige put U.S. consulate in İstinye

In charge of property selection and negotiations, Gary Lachman was the man behind the U.S. consulate in Istanbul moving from its old quarters in Beyoğlu to its current roost in İstinye on the European side of Istanbul. Lachman said of the 45 properties they looked at, only two met the size, prestige, access and price requirements; the other property was in Çamlıca on the city's Asian side.

Above all, considerations for the move focused on security, Lachman said. Referring to the July 9, 2008 shooting at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul that killed four Turkish National Police officers, he said the recent events had demonstrated that facility's interior was reasonably impregnable to attacks. “I only regret the tragic loss of the lives of the young policemen protecting those on the outside.”

Lachman made it part of the deal that the İstinye seller remove the illegally built buildings (gece kondu) on the property and compensate the residents before the purchase. “I learned to say 'gece kondu' before 'merhaba' (hello)” Lachman joked.

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