IMG_0013.JPGAfter 38 years in the Turkish Foreign Ministry, having served in four continents and seven countries, His Excellency Dr M.K. Şander Gürbüz, the Ambassador of Turkey to Indonesia, is now working hard and fast to increase good relations between the two countries. “Turkey and Indonesia have a very long history dating back to the 12th century, and in the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Suleiman I and Aceh Kingdom’s Sultan Alauddin Riayat Syah al-Kahhar joined forces to fight the Portuguese,” HE Gürbüz tells us. “These countries are also both Muslim-majority countries that have the same modern democracy systems.”

As two successful examples of where Islam and democracy can coexist peacefully—Turkey with a 95 per cent majority and Indonesia with around a 78 per cent majority—the key is to try to involve the people in decision-making as much as possible, according to HE Gürbüz. “As our founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s slogan goes, ‘Peace at home, peace in the world’: we have to include minorities in politics, the economy, and many other areas—to be a family.”

HE Gürbüz is thus deeply saddened by the string of terrorist attacks that happened recently in Indonesia. “I express my condolences to all who lost their lives and the families left behind,” HE Gürbüz says. “Unfortunately, terrorism is an issue that many countries in the world are facing today, and it can hit anyone at any time. Therefore, Turkey is always strongly working on an international scale to fight and to prevent terrorism.”

IMG_0038.JPGOn the global stage, he continues, Indonesia and Turkey are working closely together in the United Nations, the G20, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, MIKTA (a consultative platform of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Australia), the World Trade Organization, and Developing-8. The latter being an organisation for development cooperation between Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey.

“Now is the time to concentrate on the big potential of our bilateral economic relations,” says HE Gürbüz. “President Joko Widodo’s official visit last year was a turning point that started and resulted in negotiations for a free-trade agreement that will boost economic relations and which will hopefully be signed before the end of the year.”

Besides economics, the multi-faceted relations between the two countries include cultural affairs. “We want the people of both Turkey and Indonesia to know each other better, which is where cultural exchange plays an important role,” says HE Gürbüz. “This is why a Turkish cultural centre will be opening soon in Jakarta to meet the interest we see growing here, such as for learning the Turkish language.”

Education is another area of shared and growing interest, which HE Gürbüz has witnessed first-hand during his visits to universities in  Indonesia as a guest speaker and as a lecturer. “Indonesian students express their wish to study in Turkey for their master’s degrees or doctorates, so we’re increasing the number of state- and private-awarded scholarships,” he says. “This is very important because those who study in Turkey will be future ambassadors of the country in Indonesia by sharing their experiences.” Moreover, the culture, the family structure, and the food are quite similar to those found in Indonesia, he adds.IMG_9997.JPG

“Another area of cooperation is tourism for the reasons above and because Turkey receives around 35 million foreign tourists in a year and is ranked number 7 in the most-visited country list,” HE Gürbüz says. “Indonesia, a beautiful country that is spread over 5,000km of coastline and on around 17,000 islands, could learn and profit from Turkey’s experience to maximise its potential.” He further remarks on the doubling up of tourists from both countries visiting each other last year, which is where Turkish Airlines is playing an important role.

“Turkish Airlines is flying regularly every night from Jakarta to Istanbul,” he says. “We will soon launch another direct route from Istanbul to Denpasar.” This will bring an additional increase in tourist numbers coming and going between both countries, especially Indonesians who visit Turkey before or after their umrah pilgrimages.

As for His Excellency himself, travelling around Indonesia and the region fills his time between official duties—plus a newfound joy of golf, he reveals to us. “I never thought I could love golf this much, but now I see that Indonesia has so many beautiful golf destinations available year round,” HE Gürbüz says.

 This story appears in the June 2018 issue of Indonesia Tatler. For the full story, grab the copy at your nearest newsstands, or subscribe here.

See also: 8 Charities & Foundations That Make Indonesia A Better Place

Tags: Society, Indonesia, Turkey, June 2018 Issue, ASEAN