Five months after their highly unusual appointment, a British married couple formally took over as their country’s new ambassadors to Armenia when they handed their credentials to President Serzh Sarkisian on Thursday.
In what a major British newspaper called a “bizarre job share,” Jonathan Aves and his wife Katherine Leach will take turns to run the UK Embassy in Yerevan for four-month spells. The British Foreign Office has said the arrangement is meant to enable the career diplomats to look after their three small children.
Meeting with Aves and Leach, Sarkisian expressed confidence that they will “contribute to the development of British-Armenian relations and the deepening of bilateral cooperation in various fields.”
Although the Armenian authorities did not object to the dual appointment, it clearly took officials and pundits in Yerevan by surprise. Some of them wondered it is a sign of Armenia’s insignificance to the United Kingdom.
“The British do not take us Armenians seriously,” former Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Navasardian told Britain’s “The Daily Mail” newspaper last August. “I doubt whether they would send a couple to the United States or many other countries.”
The paper also quoted an unnamed Armenian official as similarly asking whether London would “foist such a self-indulgent plan on a country they think of as important.”
Zambia is the only other country where the post of British ambassador is shared by two diplomats married to each other. A Foreign Office spokesman argued in August that such arrangements “keep families together and reduce travel and shipping costs.”
“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,” Leach told “The Daily Mail.”