On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart

On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart, editor

Parting shots
Last month it was the Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor’s turn to be called in by the Foreign Office to explain the recent forging of the passports of British-Israeli citizens by the assassins of a top Hamas militant.

No doubt the talk was very civilised, but that hasn’t always the case, as former UK Ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, recently revealed on Getting Our Way, a BBC4 documentary on the history of British diplomacy.

Sir Christopher described an incident involving the Iranian chargé d’affaires, who had been called in to speak to the then Permanent Under Secretary, Sir Patrick Wright. The conversation got very heated, and ended with the chargé allegedly storming out of the office. As he left, he turned to Sir Patrick (who was fairly bald) and shouted: “I’m not going to be talked to like that by someone who looks like a pink potato!”

The naked truth
On the subject of parting, we were sad to see Chinese Ambassador Fu Ying leave London. It was not an easy posting for the Ambassador, who had to endure protesters camped outside her embassy during the Olympics and hysterical fans of The X Factor on the doorstep of her Residence.

But the Ambassador always managed to display grace under fire, using her two secret weapons – charm and wit. Before she left London, she had lunch with Lionel Barber of the FT, at which he reminded the Ambassador of some of her classic ripostes, most memorably the time she was questioned at a trade conference about the possibility of a British trade boycott because of China’s crackdown in Tibet. ”Then you’ll all be naked,” was her teasing response, because they, like most people in the world these days, were probably wearing clothes made in China.

Final farewell
We were all saddened by the sudden passing of Alan MacDonald due to a freak accident at the Kuwaiti National Day last month. Although not a diplomat himself, Alan loved diplomacy and was an institution on the circuit, acting as an unofficial ‘facilitator’ at all the receptions. He will be much missed, but we can imagine him now, in a reception queue at the Pearly Gates, waiting to be introduced to a heavenly host.