Ambassador Kamuran Gürün passed away





By Gunduz Aktan

Ambassador Gurun has sadly passed away. With his exemplary career and his abiding influence, undoubtedly he was one of the pillars to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of his generation, and ours.

He was my first ambassador at my first post abroad, namely, the Turkish delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). He arrived in mid-1970 from Bucharest, his first ambassadorial post. He was then barely 50-years-of-age. We were taking over economic representation from the Ministry of Finance, which had snatched them from us in the heat of the May 27 coup. Naturally, our colleagues from that ministry had been somewhat restless. They were afraid that the new ambassador would seek revenge.

None of their fears materialized. He was an ambassador of all and for all. He treated everybody equally. Indeed, they were better off than us as they were treated as our guests. His convictions were deeply conservative, yet he was open-minded and liberal towards his staff. The first thing he did was to liberalize working hours. People were free to-come-and-go. They were responsible only for the work they did.

I served for two years as his assistant at the Council and Executive committee meetings. I used to prepare his file by collecting information sheets from those who were in charge of the committees, together with the documents of the agenda. He used to receive a-half-hour briefing, either from me or a much longer one from others, depending on importance.

He used to read fast, indeed, there was a rumor that he understood diagonal reading. He quickly grasped the gist of the matter and he hated verbiage. Yet I remember no one whose sermon was interrupted in staff meetings. Instead, our own show of impatience had been the subject of rebuke. For him, one ought to realize one’s own mistakes.

He was laconic. He used to speak in a low voice with an anxious countenance, yet he was outspoken. He addressed the council the same way as he conversed with individuals. Although his French was very good, he never tried to pronounce like the French. He used to tease those who were infatuated with public address.

Turkey was the poorest OECD member. It was there mainly due to being a member of NATO, in other words, for geo-strategic reasons. Our contribution to debates and to the work of the organization was constrained by this situation. Soon he felt frustrated and wanted an important bilateral post — and Athens was being vacated.

While there an unfortunate event occured. While he was with Greek friends on a yacht in the Adriatic Sea, the Turkish military intervention in Cyprus began, he was later blamed for the consequences. Furthermore, he was accused of asking for permission to burn classified correspondence in case of an outbreak of war between Turkey and Greece. Those who were weary with his renowned courage took advantage of the situation and depicted him as a coward.

Back in Ankara the illustrious part of his career seemed at an end, yet destiny had something new for him. The Sept. 12 administration made him secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As expected, he did not condescend to avenge anybody. He tried hard to save the ministry from possible damage from the personnel reform carried out by the then administration. He was all alone in this enterprise. The traditional title of secretary-general was abolished and replaced by under-secretary, formally undermining the privileged status of the ministry when compared to others. The corresponding level of minister counselor was also lowered from director-general to assistant director-general. Such was the interpretation of the day, the military apparently wanted to have a unique position in the State structure, shunning the rivalry of the ministry.

Once again frustrated, he was seemingly dispatched as ambassador to our embassy in Bonn, West Germany. However, they committed another mistake by not asking for his prior agreement. He refused and left the government service.

Nevertheless, along with his heavy work-load as secretary-general, he achieved the unachievable; he wrote a book on the Armenian question, prompted by the Armenian murders of Turkish diplomats. A long-awaited response by Turkey to the Armenian allegations, the book entitled “Armenian File” treated the subject fairly and humanely, while shattering the genocide myth.

Upon retirement, he wrote columns in newspapers. As was his style, they were simple, curt and to the point. I guess he had few readers, but that would not have been his concern in the least. He was one of the few ambassadors who wrote history rather than patchy anecdotes about our strange career. In his magnum opus, a trilogy on Turkish foreign policy, he was scholarly, but never intellectual.

Above all, he was a man of integrity and honesty; rare commodities of our time.

Together with Mrs. Gencay Gurun, who was a former diplomat herself, they made a formidable couple representing a misrepresented country.

July 20, 2004

By Denis Ojalvo

The protagonist of Turkish-Jewish ties in the post 1980 military intervention era, former Undersecretary of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Kamuran Gürün passed away.
By Denis Ojalvo

In July 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital. In August, the Turkish government suspended the activities of its General Consulate in that city.
On the 12th of September 1980, the Turkish army took control of the state in order to prevent an imminent civil war which, was about to be triggered by the daily clashes of left and rightwing militants.
The National Security Council (NSC) consisting of the top military establishment of Turkey, appointed Ambassador Ilter Türkmen as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador Kamuran Gürün as his undersecretary.

In his book titled Tumultuous Years – memoirs of an Undersecretary published in 1995, Ambassador Gürün provides his readers with first hand and most authoritative information regarding the debut of Turkey’s ties with the American Jewish Establishment.

Since the assassination of its diplomats by an Armenian avenger in Los Angeles in 1973, the Turkish foreign policy making has been under the mortgage of genocide allegations by the Armenian Diaspora who has been pressing for the recognition as such, of the mass deportations and killings of Armenians which took place in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire’s Eastern Anatolian provinces.

On the 15th of July 1974, The Greek Cypriot national Guards led by Nikos Sampson, made a coup in order to annex the island to Greece. This prompted an intervention by the Turkish military on the 19th of July, which lasted until the 22nd. Having obtained no tangible result, The Turkish military made a second landing on the 14th of August and took control of the northern part of the island.

The Greek Americans mobilized their lobbying skills in order to drive the Turkish forces out of the island. By the same token, the Armenians jumped in the wagon and together with the Greek Lobby formed one of the most formidable Anti-Turkish fronts thwarting all American congressional resolutions regarding Turkey.

Turkey’s efforts to deal with this phenomenon by enlisting the support of the Jewish Lobby date back to 1974 when the Governor of Istanbul Mr. Vefa Poyraz, upon instructions received from the government, established contact with the notables of the Turkish Jewish community and asked them to take part in Turkey’s efforts to explain the reasons of Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus.

In the mean time on the 17th and 18th of December 1974, the Greek Lobby managed to have both the Congress and Senate vote a resolution on an arms embargo on Turkey. This resolution was effective as per the 5th of February 1975.

The Armenian Lobby took advantage of the conjuncture and managed to have the Congress and Senate pass joint Resolution No. 148 on the 9th of April, designing April 24, 1975, as “National Day of Remembrance of Man’s Inhumanity to Man”.

Jak kamhi and Fred Burla, two Jewish industrialists took part in the task force sponsored by the Turkish Industrialists Union which visited the USA on 6-16 September 1975 for lobbying against the arms embargo.

Below is a summary of Ambassador Gürün’s contacts with The Jewish Lobby and the involvement of Turkish Jews in Turkey’s lobbying efforts, as reported in his previously mentioned memoirs.

When he took office as under-secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Gürün inherited an even bleaker situation owing to the fact that on top of Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus and Armenian Genocide allegations, he had to advocate the legitimacy of the newly established military regime in Turkey.

Ambassador Gürün was seeking the support of the West against the raging Armenian terrorism which, in a span of 11 years from 1973 to 1984 claimed the lives of 41 Turkish diplomats and consular staff. In that scope, he thought that it was important to organize the Turkish Diaspora, especially the one in the USA, and establish a Turkish lobby which would explain to the world public opinion Turkey’s points of view on the afore mentioned subjects.

Following the military intervention of September 12th 1980, Mordo Dinar, a Turkish lawyer and member of the Turkish Jewish community, contacted Ambassador Gürün in Ankara on his own initiative and proposed to organize meetings with the press and the audio-visual media. Ambassador Gürün contacted the Turkish Ambassador Adnan Bulak in Paris and asked him to cooperate with Mordo Dinar.

Mordo Dinar who covered his own expenses, managed to block the broadcasting of certain French Television programs which, were unfavorable to Turkey. He was present during all meetings with the members of the Jewish Lobby, the following year in New York.

According To Ambassador Gürün, Mordo Dinar and Jak Kamhi have been the first two persons with whom The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs cooperated in order to explain the Turkish point of view especially in France and the USA, in order to forestall the adverse currents regarding Turkey.

Jak Kamhi was the person who found the lawyer who represented Turkey in the case of the Orly Massacre perpetrated by Armenian terrorists.

Ambassador Gürün established that the center of the Anti-Turkish activities sponsored by the Armenians was the American Congress in Washington. And that the Armenians were trying to enlist the Jewish Lobby to back their efforts.

It was again, Jak Kamhi who through the Turkish Jewish and the American Jewish Communities, prevented the Armenians from taking part in the Holocaust Museum and who fulfilled an important role in the establishment of a Task Force of non-governmental prominent figures.

Few people know the unforgettable services rendered by these two friends of ours.

Mordo Dinar and Jak Kamhi deserve a great “Thank You”.

On the 12th of February 1982 a delegation of the Jewish Community in Turkey led by the Chief Rabbi David Asseo and whose participants were Jak Kamhi, Jak Veissid and Eliezer Kohen visited the Head of the State General Evren.

Ambassador Gürün prepared a report for the NSC meeting which, had to take place on the 18th of March 1982. One of the topics on the agenda was whether to allow the Jews of Turkey to participate to international Jewish gatherings. It was judged that the Turkish Jews provided proof they could lobby on behalf of Turkey in those forums. The head of State, General Evren, opened the matter for discussion. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Ilter Turkmen opposed the granting of a permission to Turkish Jews to participate to the meetings of the World Jewish Congress on the grounds that this would harm the relations between Turkey and the Arabs.

Ambassador Gürün paid a visit to General Evren on the 24th of March 1982, before traveling to the USA where he was to meet with Jewish organizations. It was agreed between the two that his contacts would be kept secret for the time being. In his meetings with Jewish Organizations, Ambassador Gürün emphasized Turkey’s will to cooperate with these against terrorism and informed them on the allegations of Genocide made by the Armenians and their efforts to hide behind Jewish organizations. The Jewish organizations asserted that they would not contest historic events, but that they were ready to back Turkey and cooperate against terrorism.

Mordo Dinar had a meeting organized by the vice-president of the International Law Society, Mr. Seymour Rubin (a Jew) where columnists from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Foreign Policy as well as commentators of the TV chain CBS participated along with specialists of the Middle east Institute. That meeting provided Ambassador Gürün with the opportunity to answer many questions regarding Turkey and its foreign policy, including the Armenian issue.

Following Ambassador Gürün’s journey which lasted until the 1st of May, on the 21st, took place a meeting of the NSC where General Evren asked whether it was appropriate to allow Turkish Jews to participate in World Jewry’s meetings. This time the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ilter Türkmen) did not oppose and General Evren gave the necessary instructions to the office of the Prime Minister who in its turn instructed the Governor of Istanbul accordingly on the 27th of May 1982.

After the meeting, some participants asked the minister why he denied that permission during the previous meeting. The minister replied that he was opposed to contacts with the Jewish Lobby.

Ambassador Gürün emphasized that the existential question Turks have to ask themselves is who would take advantage and who would be harmed by the weakening or dismemberment of Turkey? He points that in the setting of those days it would be difficult to assume that Russia, Bulgaria,Greece, Syria and Iraq would care. That Iran, Saudi Arabia and Jordan would be indifferent.

The ones that would be nervous and unwilling to see Turkey weaken would be the USA and as strange as that may seem, Israel. Therefore, Ambassador Gürün suggested a NSC meeting to be convened in order to determine the interests of Turkey and fix the principal guidelines of its foreign policy.

Ambassador Gürün pointed on two means for handling the Armenian Question, and the Kurdish Question when this one is likely to manifest itself. These are:

1- To fulfill all of Turkey’s necessary obligations at the national level

2- Given that Turkey is unable to achieve its goals all alone, to seek partners which share the same perspective and goals with Turkey at the conceptual and operational levels.
He concluded that the only natural ally against the powerful Greek and Armenian Lobbies is the (American) Jewish Lobby.
Under the given circumstances, taking advantage of the Jewish Lobby becomes a matter of national interest. Turkey cannot sit and watch, given the danger of dismemberment, just not to offend the Arabs. The interests of Turkey take precedence above any other thing.

Ambassador Gürün pointed to the fact that the American Congress is abundant of Anti-Turkey propaganda and that if Turkey antagonized with the Jewish Lobby, not one decision favorable to Turkey would pass the Congress.

He remarked that the Jewish Lobby was able to assert its will on the German Government, provide anxiety to the French, and fight with the Russian. In his opinion, what makes things move is not Israel but the Jewish Lobby. Turkey doesn’t need to contact this lobby officially to enlist its support. This could easily be done by Turkish Citizens (Turkish Jews). That is the reason why Ambassador Gürün has been in favor of allowing the representatives of the Turkish Jewish Community participate to the meetings of the World Jewish Congress.

On the other hand, the Ministry reprimanded Turkish Americans for criticizing with an advertisement a plot against Israeli diplomats drawing parallels to plots perpetrated by Armenian terrorists against Turkish Diplomats. Ambassador Gürün thought that this reprimand by the Turkish Foreign Ministry was misplaced.

On the 5th of May 1982, Ambassador Gürün submitted the NSC a report of 61 pages regarding his contacts abroad. He was received by the Head of State and told by the Secretary General of the NSC, General Necdet Urug, that all his oral and written suggestions were agreed with. His suggestions would be discussed in a meeting of the NSC to which would participate Ambassadors Sukru Elekdag of Washington, Coskun Kirca of New York and Adnan Bulak of Paris. The NSC meeting took place on the 21st of May 1982 and Ambassador Gürün read the “Reflections and remarks” part of his report. Ambassador Elekdag underlined the importance of the Jewish Lobby and stressed the necessity of establishing contacts with that lobby and the Israeli ambassador. Thus, Ambassador Gürün became aware of existing restrictive instructions on this subject. Ambassador Coskun Kirca mentioned Arab countries’ attitudes vis-à-vis Turkey at the United Nations and stressed the importance of the Jewish Lobby. In conclusion, the Head of State affirmed that it was in Turkey’s interest to take advantage of the Jewish Lobby.

In his meeting with General Urug (Secretary General of the NSC), the latter told Ambassador Gürün that nobody until then thought about organizing a Task Force (consisting of non-governmental prominent figures) and lobbying organizations, and that if he could institutionalize this subject, he would have rendered the country a big service. General Urug requested Ambassador Gürün to commit himself to this task meticulously.

Ambassador Gürün was received by the Head of State on the 8th of September 1982. In that meeting, he informed the latter of his divergences of opinion with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ilter Türkmen, which caused communication problems.

These were:

1- That the Minister of Foreign Affairs opined that the Head of State should take part at the Islamic Conference without the presence of Ambassador Gürün.

2- That the Minister of Foreign Affairs thought that Turkey’s relations with Israel should be suspended, whereas Ambassador Gürün was against such a measure.

3- That the Minister of Foreign Affairs was against a cooperation with the Jewish Lobby, but that Ambassador Gürün was in favor of such relations.

4- That since Ambassador Gürün’s points of view were met favorably (by the NSC), the Minister ceased discussing those points with him.
In conclusion, we know that the points of view of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ilter Türkmen prevailed on those of Ambassador Gürün and that his endeavours did not come to fruition during his tenure as undersecretary of state.

However, that policy would change with the accession of Prime Minister Turgut Özal to power on the 13th of December 1983.

From 1984 onwards, the relations between Turkey and the Jewish Lobby were nurtured. The culmination of the mutual efforts to enhance cooperation between the parties was the celebration of the Quincentennial (in 1992) of the welcoming of Spanish Jews who were expulsed from their country, in Turkish lands.

The Turkish Jewish Community contributed its share to those relations with the blessing of consecutive American governments since then.

Those relations led to a strategic partnership between Turkey and Israel in 1996.

Both the Turkish and Israeli governments should not spare their efforts for safeguarding that precious relationship which took so much toil to achieve.

We respectfully bow in front of the memory of this outstanding diplomat with exceptional foresight, H.E. Ambassador Gürün, the protagonist of renewed Turkish-Jewish ties, and send our condolences to his loved ones.
Denis Ojalvo

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