Roger Short

Accessible diplomat with a lifelong enthusiasm for Turkey
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The Independent Online

Roger Guy Short, diplomat: born Cape Town, South Africa 9 December 1944; staff, Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1967-2003; MVO 1971; Consul (Commercial), Rio de Janeiro 1978-80; Head of Chancery, Ankara 1981-84; Counsellor and Deputy Head of Permanent Under-Secretary of State's Department, FCO 1984-86, Head of Personnel and Services Department 1990-94; Head of Chancery and Consul-General, Oslo 1986-90; ambassador to Bulgaria 1994-98; Chief of Staff, Office of High Representative, Sarajevo 1999-2000; HM Consul General, and Director of Trade and Investment Promotion, Istanbul 2001-2003; married 1971 Victoria Taylor (one son, two daughters); died Istanbul 20 November 2003.

Roger Short, the British consul general in Istanbul, spent much of his diplomatic career in the country in which he was killed in a terrorist attack. He was a person committed to bringing different countries and cultures closer together, and one with a deep respect and understanding of the achievements, history and culture of Turkey and Islam.

Born in 1944 in Cape Town, Roger Short went to school at Malvern from where he won a scholarship to read Classics at University College, Oxford. He joined the Foreign Office in 1967 and his first posting, two years later, was to Ankara, establishing a lifelong love of Turkey. After a spell in London, Short was posted to Rio de Janeiro before returning to Ankara (1981-84) as head of chancery. His next overseas postings were to Oslo, where he served as consul general; Bulgaria, as ambassador from 1994 to 1998; and a year in Sarajevo, where he was chief of staff at the Office of the High Representative. He returned to Turkey in April 2001 as consul general in Istanbul.

I met him in London just before his departure for Sofia for an informal chat about Bulgaria. "Have you been there before?" I asked him. "Yes, when I was in Turkey." Turkey was discussed several times during the evening and his fine diplomatic skills did not manage to disguise his huge affection for Turkey and excitement at being posted within driving distance of Istanbul.

The next day, when I told a Bulgarian MP and frequent guest at the British Embassy that the new ambassador was an Oxford Classics scholar, he exclaimed, "I guess that's the end of the jolly parties." A few weeks later he called me to say how wrong he had been. Richard and Victoria Short not only preserved the reputation of the British Embassy in Sofia as the best entertainment address in town but also gave parties a new twist. At the Queen's official birthday reception he gave a glimpse into another British tradition - the main item on the menu was fish and chips, wrapped in newspaper.

Short established a reputation as an accessible yet highly professional diplomat. He learned Bulgarian, a language with little in common with the many languages he had already mastered - Turkish, Norwegian, French and Portuguese. He was trusted by politicians, writers, academics and businessmen, and the ordinary Bulgarians he met him on charity projects and travelling round the country.

Sir Peter Laurence, ambassador in Turkey in the early 1980s, remembers Short as a first-class operator. A fluent Turkish speaker, he found his way easily in a complex cultural environment, and was closely involved on the committee of the chapel, which became a vibrant meeting point for Christians of all denominations. During this period he also served as an inspired chairman of the governing body of the embassy's British school. With this early start, friends of the Shorts were not surprised to see Roger return to Istanbul nor hear of his plans to stay in Turkey as a teacher when he retired from the Foreign Office.

Roger Short combined professionalism with a sense of humour; his enthusiasm for Turkey was infectious. He liked being out among the people and enjoyed the liveliness of the streets. The consulate in Istanbul was a vulnerable target; while the main edifice was being remodelled, Short and his staff had to work in a small building bordering the busy street. Apparently Short said, "I like it here, you are much closer to what is going on out there." Tragically, what was going on out there took his life.

Julian Popov