An ambassador from Timaru to Turkey

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 16/07/2014
jonathan curr
NEW JOB: Timaru Boys' High School old boy Jonathan Curr is the new New Zealand ambassador for Turkey.

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A Timaru social studies teacher inspired her student Jonathan Curr to follow a diplomatic career and last week he was officially appointed New Zealand's new ambassador to Turkey.

The 37-year-old former unit manager of the Middle East and Africa division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spent 18 months learning Arabic almost fulltime in preparation for the promotion.

It will see him accredited to Jordan, Israel, Georgia and Azerbaijan and be this country's representative to the Palestine Authority.

His main concerns in the Middle East are the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the rise of the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIL), and the huge refugee burden from Syria's civil war which have created instability.

"Watching the news last night, and the coverage of the current Gaza crisis, has underscored for me the centrality of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians for my new role," Curr said. "New Zealand is a strong supporter of the Middle East peace process.

"As the new ambassador to Israel and representative to the Palestinian Authority, representing the government there will likely be among my more sensitive challenges in this volatile region."

It will not be the first time he has worked in a tense situation as he was in Cairo, Egypt in 2011 during the Arab Spring revolution.

"We were stopped by vigilantes with makeshift weapons demanding ID. They were very suspicious of foreigners."

Back in year 10 at Timaru Boys' High School he had been following a maths and science path but, after a discussion on the origins of World War I, he switched direction.

Completing honours in languages and politics at Canterbury University, he then joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and managed the New Zealand aid programme in the Cook Islands before taking up posts in Tonga and then Egypt.

A key focus for Curr in his new role will be helping to organise the Gallipoli 100-year commemorations next year and advancing New Zealand's trade and economic connections.

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- The Timaru Herald

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