British Ambassador Jill Morris CMG has officially started her tour as the UK ambassador to the Republic of Turkiye. She presented her credentials to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on 22 March 2023.
Ambassador Morris had actually arrived in Turkiye at the start of the year, but due to the tumultuous events following the two catastrophic earthquakes that struck the country on 6 February, she had been unable to meet the Turkish President until now.
New ambassador’s tribute to Atatürk
In keeping with tradition, after being formally received by the Turkish president, Ambassador Morris, accompanied by her embassy staff, paid a visit to Anıtkabir – the mausoleum for Turkiye’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
The British ambassador laid a wreath and observed a minute’s silence before signing the Anıtkabir Memorial Book, in which she wrote the following:
“I am deeply honoured and proud to represent the UK in Turkiye, laying a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and paying my heartfelt tribute and respect to the father of modern Turkiye.
“The UK and Turkiye have strong, deep rooted relations, including as allies in NATO. I look forward to strengthening further our partnership as we celebrate the centenary of the Turkish Republic in 2023”.
Morris’ appointment makes her the UK’s first female ambassador to Turkiye. She takes up her position at a time when the two countries enjoy strong bilateral relations.
Turkiye was the first country to sign a free trade agreement with the UK after Brexit. Trade volume between the two countries now stands at $18.9 billion, with the UK one of Turkiye’s top 5 export markets. In the opposite direction, Turkiye is the UK’s fourteenth largest trading partner in 2022.
Blessed with a wealth of tourism options, from city breaks to coastal resorts, Turkiye is a popular destination with Brits. The depreciation of the Turkish lira was a further pull, resulting in some 3.8 million visitors from the UK arriving in the country last year.
As NATO allies, the UK and Turkiye also co-operate on a host of strategic political and military issues, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And the UK was among the first to send a large team of rescuers to help with the search, rescue and relief effort after the earthquakes.
The two countries are also Guarantors of Cyprus, although they take markedly different positions on how to resolve the long-running dispute. The UK remains wedded the to the oft-tried and failed federal solution, while in recent years Turkiye has shifted its policies and now supports a two-state solution.
In an article he penned for the Daily Express before his tour in Britain ended earlier this month, the Turkish Ambassador Ümit Yalçın urged the UK to use its “historic relationship with Cyprus…to create a peaceful resolution to Cyprus’ division”. Ambassador Yalçın stated the most effective was for the UK to “recognise the fully functioning democracy of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”
Ambassador Morris’ CV
It remains to be seen how Ambassador Morris’ experience of Cyprus politics will be leveraged in her new role.
She first joined the British Foreign Office in 1999. Since then, her diplomatic postings has seen her serve in three overseas roles in Cyprus, Brussels and Italy.
She has previously served as Europe Director in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and as Head of the Counter-Proliferation Department and Head of the Consular Strategy Department in the FCO.
One of her first diplomatic duties was to be part a desk officer for the FCO’s United Nations Department.
Ambassador Morris’s first international posting was to Nicosia, where she served as Second Secretary for four years, between 2001 and 2005. This period saw the two sides in Cyprus come closest to reaching an agreement to reunify through the Annan Plan, which the UK helped shape. The Greek Cypriot side subsequently rejected the Plan in a referendum. A week later, a divided island entered the European Union.
After a year as a desk officer dealing with Brussels, in 2006 Morris was appointed a Counsellor as part of the UK Representation to the EU in Brussels, a role which she did for two years.
The British diplomat’s first posting as an ambassador was to Italy and San Marino, which she undertook between 2016 and 2022.
She was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 2015 for her contribution to British foreign policy.
Ambassador Morris is a regular user of social media. You can find her on Twitter @JillMorrisFDCO and on Instagram @JillMorrisFCDO.