Mr and Mrs Ambassador: Bizarre job share of our man - and woman - in Armenia for British embassySource : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2028369/Mr-Mrs-Ambassador-Bizarre-job-share-man--woman--Armenia-British-embassy.html
By Martin Delago In London And Will Stewart In Moscow
Last updated at 3:39 AM on 21st August 2011
The Foreign Office has been accused of making Britain a laughing stock by appointing a married couple to share a senior diplomatic appointment.
Jonathan Aves and his wife Katherine Leach will take turns to be the ambassador to Armenia, each doing the job for four months while the other spends that time looking after their children.
Critics in the former Soviet republic say the unusual arrangement means Britain is displaying a ‘lack of serious¬ness’ towards the country.
The controversy comes after it was revealed that the current ambassador recently married an Armenian woman working at the British Embassy.
The two developments have led to local politicians nicknaming the British mission the ‘love embassy’.
Mr Aves, 51, and his 41-year-old wife will both have the title of ambassador when they move to the Armenian ¬capital, Yerevan, next January with their children Maddie, seven, Mimi, four, and Joe, two.
But the announcement has surprised many Armenians and there is concern that it could reduce Britain’s standing in the country, an important ally in the strategically sensitive Caucasus region between Europe and Asia.
Although the Armenian government was obliged to accept the dual appointment, veteran diplomat Arman Navasardyan was critical.
‘The British do not take us Armen¬ians seriously. I doubt whether they would send a couple to the United States or many other countries,’ said the country’s former deputy foreign minister.
‘Ambassadors normally spend their first two years getting to know the country and only the third year brings real returns. Yet here we have a wife as ambassador for a few months, then her husband. Then what? Madam again?
‘The attitude here is predictable – raised eyebrows and laughter. We don’t understand why Armenia should be treated in this manner.’
The Foreign Office was so keen to avoid causing offence that it sent its Central Asia regional director, Laurie Bristow, to Yerevan in June to discuss the proposal with ministers.
But the arrangement has caused particular amusement in the landlocked country because the current ambassador, Charles Lonsdale, 46, married his Armenian Press secretary two months ago.
The only other country where there is a similar dual appointment is Zambia, where the job of High Commissioner – equivalent in rank to ambassador – is shared by Tom Carter and his wife Carolyn Davidson.
An official Armenian source, who asked not to be named, said: ‘There was some surprise but we were told this was the latest trend in the Foreign Office and that a similar scheme worked well in Zambia.
‘Now the British have the letters A to Z covered by this arrangement, no doubt more will follow. My question is whether they would foist such a self-indulgent plan on a country they think of as important.’
Britain recognised Armenia as an independent state in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the two governments have strong trade and diplomatic links.
Mr Aves was a lecturer in Russian studies at Sussex University before joining the Foreign Office, and his wife worked in public opinion research prior to her diplomatic career. The couple, from Brentwood, Essex, recently completed a joint posting at the British Embassy in Tokyo but the move to Yerevan will be their first ambassadorial role.
Ms Leach said: ‘Doing the job jointly will enhance our effectiveness at work, as well as giving us both the chance to spend time with our children while they are young.
‘We will keep each other closely informed during each four-month period, keep good records, agree a joint approach on key issues and ¬decisions, and will often attend the same events and meet the same ¬people as ambassador and spouse.’
A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘Joint postings are a modern way of working which help deliver the best possible diplomatic service in the host country.
‘They also provide better value for the UK taxpayer as they keep families together and reduce travel and shipping costs.’
Well done, gentlemen : this rotten State deserves it.