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City news, 30.08.2004 12:39

New British Consul General to St. Petersburg an Old Hand

british_consul St Petersburg Times

By Simone Kozuharov

Staff Writer

Photo by Natasha Danchenkova / For SPT

George Edgar, a career diplomat who has spent 20 years in Britain's Foreign Service, has arrived to head the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg.

Edgar, whose last posting was for three years as Britain's ambassador to Macedonia, speaks Russian and has long-standing ties to the country, he said Thursday in an interview in his office near Smolny.

"I chose [the posting]," he said. "I was keen to come back to Russia."

Edgar, 44, spent two years at the British Embassy in Moscow in the mid-80s and another several years working with the EU's TACIS program as a technical assistant in the mid-90s. He has also spent time in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, where he met his Russian wife.

The couple have two children, aged nine and 12, who also speak Russian. The children will be attending a British school in the city, Edgar said.

Edgar said his posting to St. Petersburg is for about three years. He intends to strengthen Russian-British business ties and oversee the issuing of visas.

"Its obviously part of my job to make sure that it [the consulate] provides an effective service for the people who need it," he said.

Edgar also intends to boost British involvement and recognition in the city.

"I would like to see Britain having a high profile here," he said. "There is significant British business presence here ... the most notable one is through the brewing industry."

But, he noted, "there is certainly room for expansion," namely in the consumer goods, food processing and retail industries.

Dan Kearvell, director of the St. Petersburg and North-West Russia chapter of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, said he looks forward to continuing cooperation with the consulate under Edgar's leadership.

"We are delighted that someone with George's experience of Russia and Eastern Europe has taken up such an important post, and, in particular, look forward to jointly taking the positive message of the Russian regions out to U.K. business," Kearvell said in a statement.

Although he has made frequent trips to Russia since his last posting in the 1990s, this is his first time in St. Petersburg in 20 years, he said.

"It was a posting that was available at the right time for us," Edgar said. "We're very pleased to be in St. Petersburg ... It's a fantastically beautiful city."

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