Unofficial historical registry of Turkish diplomacy on table shelf
Musa Kesler – LONDON
An antique table at the Turkish embassy in London has shed light on a succession of diplomats for nearly 113 years, excluding a gap of six years in the 1960s, former and incumbent ambassadors have said.
The first signature on the table’s shelf was put in 1907 by “First Secretary M.” (Başkatip M.)
“The signatures show both the Ottoman and the Republic eras. Those putting their signatures are diplomats of high value, who were the keystones of the Turkish foreign affairs. It is an honor to have my name there,” said Uğur Ergun, a retired ambassador who served in the United Kingdom’s capital between 1982 and 1986.
The signature of another Ottoman Empire diplomat, named Tuani Bey, also was put on it in 1914, the starting year of World War I, in which the Turkish and the British states were on the opposite sides.
After the collapse of the Ottomans and the declaration of the Republic of Turkey, Köprülüzade Kemal Bey and Vedad Uşşakizade kept up with her practice in 1927.
Feridun Cemal Erkin Bey (1929), Muzaffer Kamil Bey (1935), Bülent Uşaklıgil (1937), Necdet Kent (1945), Osman Olcay (1952) and Tanju Ülgen (1961) followed suit.
Then, there was a break explained by retired ambassador Ümit Pamir.
“I was assigned there as a clerk. There was a couple of newly assigned colleagues too. So, there was a problem of space. I didn’t have a table. A new table was procured but it wasn’t deemed suitable. There were some old tables in the depot, we were told. We went there and found a table. I started using it after a renovation. There were signatures on its shelf. But there was no signature after 1964. Obviously, it was taken to the depot that year. I put the first signature after it was taken out of the depot. The signatures followed after that day,” said Pamir, who worked at the embassy as a second secretary for three years starting from 1970.
Following stints in some countries including Italy, Greece and Canada, he served as Turkey’s ambassador to Algiers and Athens between 1991 and 1997.
On his return to Ankara, Pamir became a senior advisor for foreign policy to the Turkish governments until 2000, when he was assigned as the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
He took key responsibilities during Cyprus reunification talks named after then U.N. chief Kofi Annan.
Pamir also served as Turkey’s permanent representative to NATO and retired in 2007 at the age of 65.
“Those taking seats behind that table continued the tradition of putting their signatures on the ‘lucky table.’ It is very valuable for our profession. There are signatures of some giants in Turkish diplomacy,” Pamir said.
The historical table is still being kept at the private secretariat office of the embassy.
“The Turkish embassy in London, founded in 1793, continues to use and enliven the table with its shelf. The signatures on the table makes the continuous presence of Turkish diplomacy in Britain for long years visually concrete to us, just as seeing the portrait of our first ambassador to London, Yusuf Agah Efendi, on the wall every morning reminds us of our historical responsibility,” said Ümit Yalçın, the current Turkish ambassador in London.