London/Istanbul, Nov. 24 (Reuters): British diplomats vowed today they would not retreat behind concrete barriers in “Fort Knox-style” embassies after last week’s Istanbul attacks put Britain in the bombing frontline.
One British diplomat who survived the explosion at the Istanbul consulate said: “Subsequent to the bomb I saw so many people who couldn’t speak English hugging British staff who couldn’t speak Turkish. They all knew each other and their faces.
“It proves the worth of being within a community instead of the opposite — the feeling that you should withdraw and fortify.”
As the world’s number one terror target, the Americans have spent billions of dollars fortifying their embassies since the truck bomb attacks in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Diplomatic missions were moved out of downtown areas and embassies surrounded by concrete barriers, massive walls and nets to stop rockets.
Earlier this year, the US consulate in Istanbul moved from its historic location near the British mission because of security concerns.
It is now situated on a hilltop far out along the Bosphorus strait.
Britain, arguing that a mission has to be accessible to work effectively, has opted for a more low-key approach and the diplomat who survived Thursday’s attack strongly felt this was right.
“If someone wants to get you they are going to get you. It’s either going to be once you’ve spent a lot of money and cut off yourself from the community or when you haven’t. I don’t think that is the solution,” he said.
“I haven’t heard anyone from the consulate say they wished we had moved away.
“A lot of the Americans we know were not happy about moving away because they felt they were losing touch with the Istanbul community,” he added.