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Date : 09-11-2011

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Press release: Mr Andrew Soper has been appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Mr Andrew Soper has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in succession to Mr John Saville, who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment. Mr Soper will take up his appointment in October 2017.

Curriculum Vitae

Full name Andrew Keith Soper
Married to Kathryn
Children Two
2014 – 2017 New Delhi, Minister Counsellor (Political & Press)
2013 – 2014 New Delhi, Prosperity Counsellor
2010 – 2013 Riga, Her Majesty’s Ambassador
2007 – 2010 Maputo, High Commissioner
2004 – 2006 FCO, Head of Sustainable Development and Commonwealth Group, Global and Economic Issues Directorate
2001 – 2004 Brasilia, Deputy Head of Mission
1999 – 2001 FCO, Deputy Head, Human Rights Policy Department
1995 – 1999 Washington, First Secretary (Chancery)
1993 – 1995 FCO, Arab/Israel Desk, Middle East and North Africa Directorate
1990 – 1993 FCO, Team Leader, Economic Relations Department
1987 – 1990 Mexico City, Second (later First) Secretary (Chancery)
1985 – 1987 FCO, Desk Officer for Argentina, South America Department

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News story: Mark Field welcomes continued UK-China dialogue on human rights

Following the conclusion of the regular talks, Minister Mark Field welcomed their contribution to the UK’s relationship with China.

Minister for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field said:

I am pleased that the 24th Round of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue has taken place. Senior officials discussed the full range of our human rights concerns, including freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, access to justice and ethnic minorities’ rights. They also discussed areas where the UK and China could collaborate more closely, including modern slavery and women’s rights.

The UK strongly believes that respect for human rights is vital for growth and stability, and that these regular talks are an important part of our relationship with China. The dialogue has, once again, been held in a constructive and open manner. I am grateful for the valuable contribution made by civil society organisations before and during this exchange.

The 23rd UK-China Human Rights Dialogue took place in October 2016 in London.

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News story: British High Commissioner Fiji Speech at Queen's Birthday Party

Acting President Chief Justice Honourable Anthony Gates, Hon Vice President of Kiribati Kourabi Nenem, Attorney General Honourable Aiyaz Sayed Khayium, Hon Ministers & Members of Parliament, High Commissioners & Ambassadors, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Guests

Ni sa bula vinaka.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Gordon House to the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Party, celebrating the 91st Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. For Alessandro and I, as well as our daughters Lara and Tess, this is the first time we will celebrate this occasion with you. I want to start by saying a heartfelt vinaka for the wonderful welcome that you have given all four of us in our ten months in Fiji. We were back in the UK in May, after a couple of days, my daughters asked “when are we going home?”. They also asked when are we going to see proper weather and wear proper clothes again but I’ll gloss over that.

For the United Kingdom, we see ourselves as strategic partners in the Pacific. Each of you are invited here tonight because you have contributed in some way to the deepening of this very special relationship. We see the Pacific as family - in good times and in bad. I want to thank the Prime Minister as well as Madam Speaker, and the Leaders of Opposition parties for all your messages of solidarity following London & Manchester attacks.

More broadly, it is impossible to talk about the UK-Fiji relationship without talking about sport. Despite the fact that I arrived after Fiji Sevens’ Olympic Gold win, I get to watch the team thrash team GB in the final over and over again. And just in case, I didn’t get the message, Fiji Airways show the match on all their planes, so I can relive that moment of defeat any time I want! But tonight, I want to acknowledge the presence of the Scottish Rugby team here. Fantastic to see your kilts. Delighted that you will use your day off tomorrow to visit Hilton Special School and Gospel School for the Deaf and Veiuto Primary School. This shows the power of sport for social good – we will continue to use UK sporting and high level visits to promote sport for social good. At last week’s Italy match, I divided my half-Italian family by supporting Fiji. This week, I will of course support Scotland, although my children have asked if they can support Fiji. I would like to congratulate FRU for hosting two international matches and we hope this is the just the start for you.

Turning from sport to culture, this has been an incredible year. Dance Group VOU attended the Edinburgh festival, winning an award, and are again in the UK this week to attend a different festival. Last autumn, His Excellency the President visited London and met Her Majesty the Queen. He also opened the exhibition “Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific”, at the University of East Anglia, the largest ever exhibition of Fijian artifacts. It is often said that Her Majesty retains a soft spot for Fiji [reference to photo loops] and it was no coincidence that in January, Her Majesty undertook a visit the Fiji exhibition. I want to acknowledge the presence of Professor Hooper with us tonight – it is wonderful that you are now working as a cultural adviser to the COP 23 Secretariat to ensure that this important gathering sends a clear message on the deep cultural history of the Pacific. I am very proud that the British Government provided financial support not just for the exhibition in East Anglia, and for the Tabua exhibition here at the Fiji Museum, but to enable you to assist the museum with its strategic plan to strengthen this fantastic resource for all Fijians.

I would also like to acknowledge the presence of Ratu Meli Vesikula, of the Royal British Legion, representing the officers and families of Fijians who have served in the British Army.

For the next few minutes, I’m going to talk about the assistance that the UK provides in the Pacific. Rather than display a diplomatic beauty contest, I want to tell some of the stories of the individuals and events behind the headlines.

  • Trade – Tate and Lyle, through its presence in the UK, has continued to purchase all of Fiji’s sugar, and has recently undertaken further high level talks with FSC.

  • Secondly, education – we offer approximately 16-18 scholarships per year. Masters level. Leadership. Acknowledge the presence here tonight. It makes us proud when we see our scholars do well in their studies. We had two such scholars, Krishnan Nair received a Distinction for his Master of Science in Sustainable Energy and Environment and Maika Tuicakau who was awarded the Dean’s Award for Best Student on the MSC Structural Engineering programme. We were also pleased that we were able to award a scholarship to Krishneer Sen, our first Chevening Scholar from the Pacific with a disability who completed his Masters in Human Rights from the University of London. Krishneer started off as a student of the Gospel School for the deaf and is now UNICEF Pacific’s Ambassador. In addition, the British Government – sole funder of Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, which provides approximately further scholarships per year in the region.

  • Marine Economies – in 2015, the UK launched a new programme for Pacific Commonwealth countries. This opened up world-class expertise from the UK Hydrographic Office, the National Oceanographic Centre and the Centre for Enviornment Fisheries and Acquaculture Science to the Pacific. At the heart of this program is an offer to help with gaps in hydrographic mapping and to use this to develop action plans which balance economic growth with environmental protection.

  • Bilateral projects – support to UNDP/police – video recording; funded women’s political participation through support to Fiji Young Women’s Forum; police leadership training done in collaboration with Australia and New Zealand; a growing defence relationship with an offers of places at Dartmouth Sandhurst, and regional courses on governance and strategic leadership; capacity building to parliament hosted by the Rt Hon Speaker.

  • Multilateral - the most interesting part. Very proud to be a lead funder of the UN – UK funds between 9-13% most agencies. As a Board Member of the World Bank, the UK has pledged £3.3bn to the International Development Association between 2014-17. As the Pacific draws down more IDA, we estimate that there will be more UK funding to the Pacific than at any other time.

  • In addition, I want to underline the contribution the United Kingdom makes to the European Union’s support to the Pacific. I particularly want to underline the good work done through the Access to Justice programme, with UNDP, which provides a welcome boost to legal aid, the climate partnership with Pacific Small Island States, and the support to the Commonwealth’s hub and spoke trade capacity building, including advisers to the PIF and to the Ministry of Trade. For the UK, whilst we are negotiating a new partnership with Europe, make no mistake, we will continue to be a leading partner on foreign and security policy, globally and here in the Pacific.
    Finally, I want to touch on climate. I wish to pay tribute to Fiji’s Presidency of COP and leadership of last week’s UN Oceans conference alongside Sweden. Attorney General, Ministers, I wish to congratulate you on an outstanding achievement including over 1300 new commitments to protect Oceans. The UK fully recognises the interconnectivity between oceans and climate, as well as the particular context of the Pacific, and warmly welcome this leadership.

  • On COP, the United Kingdom is fully committed to the Paris agreement. We are delighted to support Fiji’s COP Presidency, not least through our support to the European Union. We are ready to lead, shoulder to shoulder with our European partners. We are the 3rd largest contributor to the Green Climate Fund. We are proud that London is a leading centre on green finance. To have credibility internationally, it is vital to show leadership domestically also. As you may already know, the UK was the first developed nation to have legally binding targets for Greenhouse Gas emissions through our 2008 Climate Change Act. Last week, the energy mix from renewable overtook coal and gas for the first time. We are the first country to propose an end date for all unabated coal-fired power stations in this time frame as part of our plans for a cleaner energy future. This, ladies and gentlemen, is history in the making.

Before concluding, I want to look ahead to the coming year. I am delighted that the UK will host the next Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting in April 2018 and will be chair in office of the Commonwealth for a 2 year period. As the much-needed reform program of the Secretariat moves ahead, I look forward to deepening our understanding of what Pacific States want to see from a reformed Secretariat.
In 2015, the Queen’s Young Leader Programme was launched – we are honoured to have the Fiji recipients here tonight. [Elisha Bano and Luisa Tiulau both use creative arts to advocate social issues, including social inclusion and climate change. The Queen’s Young Leaders are in the UK this week and will receive their awards from Her Majesty on 29th June. Next week marks the launch of the search for the Queen’s Young Leader 2018 and we need to your help to publicise this life-changing programme and to nominate the very best young men and women.

We will have other opportunities to reflect on the depth of the Commonwealth partnership in the months ahead. The Commonwealth Games will be in our neighbourhood at the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The Queen’s Baton Relay will be in Fiji in November this year. In another example of leadership, Fiji will host the Commonwealth Education Ministers here next February. Overall, the Commonwealth offers many practical areas of assistance in terms of trade policy support, parliamentary capacity building and other programmes associated with governance/rule of law, greater access to climate finance and election support, including observer missions. We look forward to working with all Pacific countries more closely in order to insure a dynamic Summit which renews the Commonwealth as an effective global institution, attuned to the particular needs of Small Island States.

In closing, I will be pleased to report to Her Majesty that we have celebrated her birthday in style in Suva – with Bula-Kilt combination found nowhere else on earth.

I also want to thank all the staff of the British High Commission Suva who have worked tirelessly to prepare tonight’s event.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would now like to offer you a toast, if you could charge your glasses, The toast is: to the President, the Government and the People of Fiji. To Fiji.

Vinaka Vaka Levu.

Speech: High Commission in Cyprus celebrates the Queen’s Birthday in 2017

The British High Commission hosted its annual national day celebration – the Queen’s Birthday Party – on 20 June – an occasion to celebrate the breadth of UK-Cyprus bilateral relations.

This year’s celebration saw the event take on a Harry Potter theme, celebrating one aspect of UK creativity which has reached worldwide renowned, given that June 2017 marks 20 years since the publication of the first Harry Potter book.

High Commissioner Matthew Kidd and President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades

Below is a summary of High Commissioner Matthew Kidd’s opening remarks at the event, in the presence of H.E. President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades and building on the Harry Potter theme.

“I guess that I don’t need to explain the references. The car out front is not there for trade promotion, even though I saw that Phileleftheros the other week reproduced an advertisement for a Ford Anglia from the 1960s - when it cost C£620. Our servers are not all from the same school, nor have they all visited the same optician. Harry’s Bar is not a copy of Venice.

But you will have seen through all that. It’s twenty years since the first Harry Potter book was published. The first eventually of seven volumes: a huge success, films, translations, merchandise. A generation of children, including my own, stimulated and enthused to read books.

So what? You thought you were coming to a Queen’s Birthday Party, not a book promotion. So what’s the link?

There are three (there always are). The first is determination. As she wrote that first book, JK Rowling was an unemployed single mother, short of money. She spent her days scribbling in the public library, no space at home. She struggled to find a publisher. But she kept at it, managed the difficulties, didn’t give up - and success came.

The second is that the success came through the young: not the older generations, the katestimeno, telling her that it would never sell, who on earth would want to read the adventures of a bunch of apprentice wizards at a boarding school? But the young responded to the imagination, the fantasy, the jokes, even the fake Latin. I take a clear lesson from that: if you have vision or ambition, it is the young who will respond, and help you to deliver it. I hope those here tonight who feel that they fall into the “young” category recognise the responsibility we put on their shoulders; and those who no longer do, recognise the need to educate and help them to deliver, for all of us.

Third is rebirth. Those of you who know the books will know that there is a key role for a phoenix, the bird that is consumed by flames but then miraculously revives from the ashes, glossier and stronger than before. I’ve often heard Cypriots make parallels to the phoenix story in their own emergence from disasters. I know that Anorthosis supporters do the same.

The UK is in some ways being reborn, following our referendum a year ago. We know it will not be straightforward to build a new place for ourselves in the world, to continue to be secure, prosperous, and influential in helping others to achieve the same. But we have many strengths and assets, including the creativity and determination reflected in the Harry Potter story; and we shall call on all of them. We will still value our old friends, including Cyprus, but learn to collaborate with them in new ways. We will have to show that we recognise their anxieties about how what we are doing may affect their interests too. As far as Cyprus is concerned, Mr President, I promise that we will give that our best shot.

Harry Potter theme

In the specialised vocabulary of Cyprus Settlement, to say that Cyprus too is on the verge of rebirth would be politically controversial. So I shan’t; but you see the link. Cyprus and its citizens, from both communities, stand on the edge of being able to emerge from two generations of division, disaster, handicap. It’s a tremendous opportunity to achieve a brighter, liberated future. But it will take tremendous imagination and vision to design and grasp its full potential.

It’s always easier to say “It’ll never work”. The more who do, the likelier they are to prove themselves right. In the financial sector, there are rules against creating self-fulfilling prophecies like that. Not in politics, unfortunately. But my hope for this evening is that all those here tonight, from whatever field, who dare, who imagine, who create, who look to the future, will leave this party feeling boosted and backed by the rest of us”.

News story: Foreign Secretary joins crucial Cyprus settlement talks in Switzerland offering full UK support

The Conference on Cyprus will reconvene in the Swiss resort of Crans Montana with the participation of the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, and representatives of the Guarantor Powers (Greece, Turkey and UK).

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson’s attendance demonstrates the UK’s ongoing support and commitment to the settlement process. He will be accompanied by the Minister for Europe, Sir Alan Duncan. The UK has an important role as a Guarantor Power, and stands ready to support the UN facilitated process. The UK is contributing to a settlement in a number of ways, including as one of the most significant contributors to the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, through our offer to cede almost half of the land of the UK Sovereign Base Areas to a united Cyprus and through practical assistance to help the two sides prepare for a settlement.

On arrival in Switzerland this evening, the Foreign Secretary is due to hold a series of meetings with the Parties and attend the launch of the Conference. The Foreign Secretary is expected to pay tribute to the commitment and vision shown by Mr Anastasiades and Mr Akıncı in dedicated pursuit of a settlement for the benefit of both Cypriot communities. He is expected to encourage all those present to ‘keep the goal in sight’ noting that ‘the status quo carries risks, while only change will realise the opportunities of a united Cyprus’. He will point to the ‘opportunity to move beyond the past and stake out a new future’.

The Foreign Secretary will acknowledge that reaching an agreement will require difficult political decisions from all parties and that flexibility and compromise will be essential in order to reach a deal.

Ahead of the talks, the Foreign Secretary said:

This Conference builds on months of hard work, commitment and progress shown by both sides. It’s an exceptional opportunity for both communities to find a lasting solution for Cyprus, which will bring huge benefits to the whole island and the region. It will not be easy, but with political will, creativity and flexibility, I believe that a deal can be done. The UK is ready and willing to help in any way we can.

Further information

Follow the Foreign Secretary on Twitter: @BorisJohnson and Facebook.

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News story: UK government publishes proposals on rights of EU citizens

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said that EU citizens make an invaluable contribution to the UK and the government wants to provide them with certainty about the future of their lives.

Theresa May said a policy paper published by the government would make clear the UK’s ‘fair and serious offer’ to maintain EU citizens’ rights, which will be enshrined in UK law.

The Prime Minister once again made it clear these proposals should be part of a reciprocal agreement for EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in Europe, which the government wants to agree as quickly as possible.

The Prime Minister said:

EU citizens are an integral part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country and I have always been clear that I want to protect their rights.

That is why I initially sought an agreement on this before we triggered Article 50. And it is why I am making it an immediate priority at the beginning of the negotiations.

That agreement must be reciprocal because we must protect the rights of UK citizens living in the EU too.

Our offer will give those 3 million EU citizens in the UK certainty about the future of their lives. And a reciprocal agreement will provide the same certainty for the more than 1 million UK citizens who are living in the European Union.

In its policy paper, Safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU, the government makes clear how EU citizens looking to remain in the UK can do so.

The paper confirms the creation of a new ‘settled status’ for EU citizens who arrive before a cut-off date, which is yet to be specified and will be agreed as part of the negotiations with the EU.

Applicants who already have 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK will be immediately eligible for settled status. Those who arrived before the specified date but do not yet meet the 5 year threshold by exit day will be allowed to stay until they reach that milestone and can also secure settled status.

Those EU citizens who are granted settled status will be treated like a comparable UK national, entitled to broadly the same rights and benefits.

And a grace period of up to 2 years will be in place for all EU citizens, including those who arrive after the cut-off date, allowing them to regularise their status to remain in the country.

All those applying to remain in the UK will undergo full criminality checks.

The paper also confirms:

  • family dependants who join a qualifying EU citizen in the UK before the UK’s exit will be able to apply for settled status after 5 years
  • EU citizens looking to remain in the UK will be asked to apply for documentation under a new streamlined, user friendly scheme
  • protection for the existing healthcare arrangements for both EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. This includes seeking continued participation in the European Health Insurance Card scheme for all UK nationals and EU citizens, including for temporary visits
  • the UK intends to provide certainty by continuing to export and uprate the UK State Pension within the EU, as well as offering reassurance that those exporting a benefit at the specified date will be able to do so, subject to ongoing entitlement
  • EU citizens who arrived before the specified date should be able to continue to be eligible for Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) student loans and ‘home fee’ status.
  • the UK intends to continue to recognise professional qualifications obtained in the Member States prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This would be part of a reciprocal deal which ensures professional qualifications obtained in the UK and EU Member States continue to be mutually recognised.

Notes for editors

In addition to the publication of the policy paper, the government has updated its advice for EU citizens living in the UK.

Press release: Change of Governor of the Cayman Islands

Mr Anwar Choudhury has been appointed Governor of the Cayman Islands in succession to Mrs Helen Kilpatrick CB. Mr Choudhury will take up his appointment in March 2018.

Curriculum Vitae

Full name Anwar Bokth Choudhury
Married to Momina Choudhury
Children Three
2013 – present Lima, Her Majesty’s Ambassador
2012 – 2013 FCO, Director, Diplomatic Excellence
2008 – 2011 FCO, Director, International Institutions
2004 – 2008 Dhaka, British High Commissioner
2000 – 2004 Cabinet Office, Director, E-Government
1995 – 1999 Ministry of Defence, Assistant Director
1993 – 1995 Royal Air Force, Strategist
1986 – 1992 Siemens Plessey plc, Consultant

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News story: UK Government reaffirms its commitment to combat torture

On the 2017 International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, FCO Minister for Human Rights, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, said:

The UK government condemns torture in all circumstances, and I call on governments around the world to eradicate this abhorrent practice.

We are continuing to work hard to combat torture, including supporting NGOs to undertake independent monitoring and inspection of places of detention.

I urge states that have not yet done so to sign, ratify and implement the UN Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol. By taking this step, countries will be making a clear statement about their commitment to end torture and to deliver justice to victims of torture and their families.

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Press release: Foreign Secretary's message for Eid

The Foreign Secretary said:

I wish a happy and peaceful Eid to all Muslims in the UK and across the world as they gather with their families to celebrate and mark the end of Ramadan. British Muslims make a vital contribution to all aspects of our society and have helped to shape the vibrant and successful democracy that we have in the UK today.

Our shared values and belief in freedom and liberty across all religions is what makes the UK so special and it is more important than ever that we remember that in light of the recent tragedies our country has experienced.

My thoughts are with those who, because of their circumstances, may be unable to celebrate Eid al-Fitr this year. We continue to work with our friends and partners for peace across the Muslim world, and in particular for an end to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. To them we offer our thoughts and prayers.

Eid Mubarak to all.

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Press release: Foreign Secretary statement on attempted attack in Mecca

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said:

I condemn the evil attempt to attack the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Our thoughts are with the injured and their families at this time as well as with Saudi Arabia’s security forces and first responders who prevented an even greater tragedy. Terrorism respects no country and no religion. We all stand together in confronting it and together we will prevail.

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