As I walked through the gates of the Consular General’s residence, I knew I was in for a treat. The home is perched on the steep hillside in one of my favorite neighborhoods of Istanbul. The grounds are green, the staff is friendly and the Consular General and his wife proved to be the most gracious hosts.
We gathered for the monthly meeting of Professional American Women of Istanbul. We sipped coffee and tea out of porcelain cups and used napkins with the seal of the United States printed on them. We snacked on the comprehensive breakfast buffet. Eventually, we gathered in the main sitting room to listen to introductions from the Consular General, the head of US Security forces in Istanbul, 2 Marine officers and a liaison from the Citizen services office. Here are some of the highlights of the meeting and the lively discussion:
1.) The Istanbul Consulate is busy! There are more than 14,000 Turkish students travelling to the United States each year and more Turkish people are applying for Tourist visas than ever before. As many of you know, Turks are required to complete a long and comprehensive visa application process before they travel to the US and many other countries. Thus, the Consulate is very busy filing these applications and conducting interviews to complete the visa process.
2.)Istanbul is a very popular destination among high ranking officials. During our visit, Secretary Janet Napolitano was in town. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and President Obama have also been to Istanbul in recent years. The Istanbul Consulate receives more high-ranked officials than most US consulates around the globe. The city’s geopolitical significance rivals its touristic appeal…
3.) American companies are looking to Istanbul as a center for business in the region. 3M is planning to establish a super-hub in the upcoming year. It is predicted that with the weakness in the Euro zone and the instability in the Middle East, Istanbul will continue to be a desirable location for investors and American business interests.
4.) There are currently four people at the Consulate focusing entirely on the Syria conflict. The second in command at the Damascus Embassy is now working from Istanbul.
We also talked about the PKK, the Turkish love for conspiracy theories, the upcoming Marine Ball and our love for this beautiful city. When asked about the greatest threats in Turkey, the Security official joked that ” the most dangerous thing is crossing the street”. There may be some truth to that…
I was very impressed by everyone involved in the US diplomatic mission in Istanbul. Everyone on staff held a passion and love for Turkey and felt particularly lucky to be living and working in Istanbul. Each individual I encountered was bright, articulate, wise and kind. I left certain of their deep commitment to ensuring a strong relationship between Turkey and the United States. I was absolutely amazed by the hospitality and generosity of the Kilner’s and their staff.