Thorhilda Abbott-Watt

Last updated

Thorhilda Abbott-Watt
British High Commissioner to Tonga [1]
Assumed office
February 2020
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Theresa May
Boris Johnson
Preceded byIndependent office re-established replacing Melanie Hopkins as non-resident High Commissioner (Paul Nessling last resident High Commissioner in 2006) [2]
British Ambassador to Turkmenistan
In office
December 2016 2019
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Theresa May
Boris Johnson
Preceded bySanjay Wadvani
Succeeded by Hugh Philpott
Personal details
Born (1955-02-11) 11 February 1955 (age 66)
London, England
Nationality British

Thorhilda Mary Vivia "Thorda" Abbott-Watt OBE (born 11 February 1955 [3] ) is a British diplomat who currently serves as British High Commissioner to Tonga.



Abbott-Watt joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1974 and has worked both in London and in a number of countries in South America, the Far East and Western and Eastern Europe. In 1989 she served in the FCO, negotiating the renunciation of Four Power Rights in Germany. From 2001 to 2002 she was Chargée d'Affaires, opening the first British Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. [4] [5]

In 2003 Abbott-Watt became Ambassador to Armenia, a role she held for two years. In 2004, questions were raised about her competency in a letter to Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Jack Straw by scholar Tessa Hofmann and the International Group on Genocide Recognition and Prevention, after she made a statement at a press conference on 20 January 2004 questioning the use of the term genocide for the Armenian genocide. Abbott-Watt said, "Great Britain accepts that the events of 1915 were mass killings [of the Armenian population] – the responsible for which are the Turks. I see no problem calling it brutality. It shouldn’t have taken place even in the course of war. But I do not think that recognizing the events as genocide would be of much use." [6] [7]

In 2006 Abbott-Watt worked briefly as Head of Political and Military Section in Kabul, then undertook an attachment to UK Trade & Investment as Head of Strategy and Innovation. [8] She served as Ambassador to Mongolia from 2008 to 2009 and from 2010 to 2012. On 9 May 2016, she was appointed Ambassador to Turkmenistan. [9]

She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours. [10] In 2020, Abbott-Watt was made the first British High Commissioner to Tonga since 2006, with the re-opening of an embassy in Nuku'alofa. [11]

Personal life

Abbott-Watt is married to Reef Talbot Hogg. [5] Her father was a soldier and diplomat and her mother a premiere danseuse with the Ballet Russe. [4] She was educated at Stonar School, Wiltshire. [12]

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  1. "UK in the South Pacific". Facebook . Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  2. "British Government appoints High Commissioner to Tonga". Tonga Broadcasting Commission . 30 January 2020. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  3. "Great Britain Appoints New Ambassador to Armenia". Asbarez. 15 January 2003. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  4. 1 2 Baghdasaryan, Edik (20 February 2004). "Nation shall speak peace unto nation: An interview with THORDA ABBOTT-WATT, UK Ambassador to Armenia". HETQ. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Change of Her Majesty's Ambassador to Mongolia" (Press release). 3 February 2011.
  6. "Tessa Hoffman Questions Competence of UK Ambassador Abbott Watt". Asbarez. 15 March 2004. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  7. "International Group on Genocide Questioned Expediency of Thorda Abbott-Watt as UK Ambassador to Armenia". 12 March 2004.
  8. "Miss Thorda Abbott-Watt". GOV.UK. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  9. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (9 May 2016). "Change of Her Majesty's Ambassador to Turkmenistan" (Press release).
  10. "No. 61962". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2017. p. B24.
  11. "UK announces new High Commissioner to Tonga". Matangi Tonga . 30 January 2020. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  12. ‘ABBOTT-WATT, Thorhilda Mary Vivia, (Thorda)’, Who's Who 2017, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2017