Tom Fletcher » British Ambassador to Lebanon

SOVEREIGNTY, BORDERS AND KEEPING LEBANON OUT OF THE WAR

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This week I visited Lebanon’s Northern border with the Lebanese Army. I wanted to see the way in which they are trying to enforce sovereignty at this challenging time, supported by UK projects. A series of UK funded border towers, some built (symbolically) with material previously used in Northern Ireland, are the most significant evidence in the area that a border actually exists. They cannot prevent all cross border activity, far … Read more »SOVEREIGNTY, BORDERS AND KEEPING LEBANON OUT OF THE WAR

Inhuman Human Trafficking

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In the 21st century we get angry about many small things: traffic jams, power cuts or a failed internet connection. We get plenty of opportunities for all three in Lebanon. But last Friday I joined an event about an issue worth getting really furious about. The Beirut Bar Association launched a Human Rights Institute booklet on human trafficking, funded by the British Embassy. It provides information on what people should … Read more »Inhuman Human Trafficking

DIVA DIPLOMACY – ‘ONE LEBANON: UNITED FOR TOMORROW’

Last Saturday, twenty Lebanese stars performed together in a powerful rejection of divisive politics and sectarianism. Pop idols, divas, comedians, sportsmen, rappers and actors put on the best possible display of the real Lebanon – talented, resilient, and proud of their country. It was an extraordinary night. The charismatic Anthony Touma got the largest screams, but the biggest cheer was for a moving combination of Ave Maria and the Call … Read more »DIVA DIPLOMACY – ‘ONE LEBANON: UNITED FOR TOMORROW’

An Idea Worth Shouting About

One of the great frustrations of diplomacy is that results are hard to quantify. If, for example, a new government is at last formed in Lebanon, we will be hard pressed to say to what extent our encouragement, the hours on the road, in planes and in meetings, contributed. So when a project with direct, measurable, tangible impact comes along, we get excited. This week we got one that leaves … Read more »An Idea Worth Shouting About

A Talisman for Tolerance – Lebanon loses Mohamad Chatah

Lebanon lost Mohamad Chatah and many others today. As at other such moments, the embassy went into a high gear – checking staff were safe, searching hospitals for Brits, updating travel advice, considering a public response, assessing the facts, analysing the implications. In between, like so many others here, we try to deal with the shock. And we grieve. I visited former PM Siniora to condole with him, and with … Read more »A Talisman for Tolerance – Lebanon loses Mohamad Chatah

Five Challenges for Lebanon in 2014

A year ago, I shared elements of my annual review of the year in Lebanon.  One year on, we’re still running to stand still. I’ve learnt three rules about diplomacy here. Never think you can understand Lebanon. Never think you can predict Lebanon. Never think you can fix Lebanon.    However, breaking at least one of these rules, I think that the first quarter of 2014 will be critical for Lebanon’s stability. … Read more »Five Challenges for Lebanon in 2014

Waves, Arguments and Cliffhangers: Ten Ways Diplomats Can Communicate Better

French diplomat Jules Cambon saw the dangers of diplomatic openness in 1931, complaining that ‘the activities of the press, and ignorance of a public that insists on being told everything, do not create an atmosphere favourable to prosecution of political designs’. He was right, long before Assange and Snowden, that the media would sweep away many of the comfortable and previously impenetrable levels of secrecy surrounding our core business. But … Read more »Waves, Arguments and Cliffhangers: Ten Ways Diplomats Can Communicate Better

Dear Lebanon: An Open Letter

Tomorrow I’ll hand a letter from Prime Minister Cameron to President Sleiman, with formal congratulations on Lebanon’s 70th anniversary. The wonderful people at Rag Mag also asked me to write an open letter to mark the day. This is a tough and precarious assignment, and it will annoy or anger some people. But I’ve had a try, as I think this is an important moment for reflection. I hope others … Read more »Dear Lebanon: An Open Letter

On Your Side: A Week in the Life of An Embassy

Almost every week in Beirut is a rollercoaster. Every Monday morning we set out what we hope to achieve, and then try not to be buffeted by McMillan’s famous ‘events, dear boy, events’. Here are ten of the things we did last week: Held three Remembrance Day services, in Tripoli, Beirut and Saida. There are 1705 allied servicemen buried in Lebanon, most from the Second World War. Every year, as … Read more »On Your Side: A Week in the Life of An Embassy

Saving Syria’s children

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The UK is working hard on three priorities for Syria: ensure that the world does all it can to alleviate the humanitarian suffering; support efforts to find a political solution that brings the conflict to an end; and prevent Assad from using chemical weapons against his own people. The UK has committed £500 million to help those affected by the conflict in Syria. The funds will provide support including food, … Read more »Saving Syria’s children