Dame Maeve Geraldine Fort, the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to Lebanon from 1992 to 1996, died on September 18 at the age of 67.
Dame Fort volunteered for service in Lebanon when a posting here was considered by the British Foreign Office to be one of the most dangerous and challenging in the foreign service. She quickly grew to appreciate the country and its people, often walking in the hills and meeting local people.
Dame Fort was a unique personality in the British foreign service. Although competition for entrance to the diplomatic service was strong, she was one of only 12 selectees as a junior officer in 1962. Her natural talent for languages, her strong character, and her ability to connect with people lead her to become the highest ranking woman diplomat of her time in the Foreign Office.
According to her obituary in the Daily Telegraph, she was “hugely popular with her colleagues,” and enjoyed a reputation as a “tough but sensitive negotiator who got results.” Her personal skills endeared her to foreign contacts as well. Not to be outdone by her counterparts in the British spy agencies, “she delighted in competing with the intelligence community in collecting useful information, and she often won.”
Prior to her service in Lebanon, Dame Fort was Ambassador to Mozambique and was instrumental in brokering a ceasefire in the Mozambican Civil War. After Lebanon, she was appointed to South Africa as High Commissioner, and worked closely with President Nelson Mandela.
Throughout her career, Dame Fort was an outspoken in her condemnation of corruption and her advocacy of education. Upon retirement, she became a trustee of the British Red Cross
and several other organizations.