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Name: Abercombie-Winstanley, Gina
Current Position: Ambassador

Ambassador to Malta: Who Is Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley?

In the wake of the May 2011 pressured resignation of Ambassador to Malta Douglas Kmiec, the ex-Reagan administration official and George W. Bush campaign donor who crossed party line to endorse Barack Obama in 2008, the president has replaced Kmiec with Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, a career Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Minister-Counselor. She is the first Foreign Service officer assigned to Malta since 1985, reflecting the Mediterranean island nation’s increased strategic importance owing to its proximity to Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, where popular revolutions recently shocked the world.
Born in 1957 and raised in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Abercrombie-Winstanley grew up with a father who was an attorney and a mother who was a secretary. She graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in 1976, earned a B.A. at The George Washington University and an M.A. in International Relations at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in 1984.
Abercrombie-Winstanley’s interest in the Middle East began in High School, where she studied the Hebrew language she heard spoken by the many Orthodox Jews of Cleveland Heights. She first traveled to the region as part of an exchange program that sent her to Israel for the 1978-1979 academic year, which coincided with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem leading to peace between Israel and Egypt. After graduating college, Abercrombie-Winstanley returned to the Middle East as a Peace Corps volunteer to the Persian Gulf country of Oman, where she met her husband, Englishman Gerard Winstanley. After returning to the States, she served as a Presidential Management Fellow at the United States Information Agency. 
Abercrombie-Winstanley joined the Foreign Service in 1985 and, given a choice between London, UK, and Baghdad, Iraq, elected to serve as Consul in Baghdad at the height of the Iran-Iraq War, when Iranian missiles were hitting the Iraqi capital. After a year and a half there, in 1987 she was posted to Jakarta, Indonesia, and then to Cairo. From 1991 to 1993, she served as Special Assistant for Middle Eastern and African Affairs to Deputy, and later, Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.
After a year of advanced Arabic study in Tunis, Tunisia, she served as Political Officer at the Embassy in Tel Aviv with responsibility for the Gaza Strip for three years, from 1994 to 1997. Between then and 2002, Abercrombie-Winstanley held a series of stateside appointments, including Director for Near East South Asian Affairs with responsibility for the Arabian Peninsula at the National Security Council (NSC) and Director for Legislative Affairs, also at the NSC; Senior Advisor for Middle Eastern Affairs at the US Mission to the UN; and Policy Advisor to the Director of the Near East–South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the Department of Defense. She was also awarded a Pearson fellowship to work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for Ranking Member Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware).
Abercrombie-Winstanley returned to the Middle East in 2002 as the first female Consul General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where, she says, she was given the status of “honorary male” because she was a foreign diplomat. While there, she survived a deadly al-Qaeda terrorist attack on the consulate on December 6, 2004, and was cited “for acts of courage” during the attack.
Back in the United States she served as Chairwoman for Middle East Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, the premier training facility for U.S. diplomats, from 2005 to 2007; and was appointed Director of the Office of Egypt and the Levant in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, where she handled the countries of Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, from 2007 to 2008. She served as Deputy Coordinator for Programs and Policy in the Secretary’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism from early 2008 to August 2011.
Abercrombie-Winstanley is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Cleveland Heights Native Takes Road Less Traveled (by Douglas J. Guth, Cleveland Jewish Times)
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