Former UN chief Perez de Cuellar passes away, aged 100
UNITED NATIONS: Javier Perez de Cuellar, the soft-spoken Peruvian diplomat who led the United Nations as its fifth secretary-general and grappled with several international crises, including the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, died at his home in Lima on Wednesday. He was 100 years old.
Perez de Cuellar, who served as United Nations secretary-general from 1982 to 1991, was a practitioner of quiet diplomacy– his association with the UN began with the first-ever General Assembly meeting in 1946.
“If I want to be effective, I have to be discreet,” he said in a speech at his inauguration as the UN chief that defined his tenure. “I am not running for the Nobel Prize”.
The current holder of the UN’s top job, Antonio Guterres, expressed his profound sadness over Perez de Cuellar’s death, saying he was a “committed diplomat and a personal inspiration who left a profound impact on the United Nations and our world”.
In a statement issued at UN Headquarters in New York Wednesday night, Guterres said, “Mr. Perez de Cuellar’s life spanned not only a century but also the entire history of the United Nations, dating back to his participation in the first meeting of the General Assembly in 1946.
“His tenure as Secretary-General coincided with two distinct eras in international affairs: first, some of the iciest years of the Cold War, and then, with the ideological confrontation at an end, a time when the United Nations began to play more fully the role envisaged by the founders.
“Mr. Perez de Cuellar played a crucial role in a number of diplomatic successes — including the independence of Namibia, an end to the Iran-Iraq War, the release of American hostages held in Lebanon, the peace accord in Cambodia and, in his very last days in office, a historic peace agreement in El Salvador.”
He tried hard , but was unable to negotiate a peace deal between Britain and Argentina during the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas War.
In 1979, Perez de Cuellar rose to the position of UN Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs. From April 1981, while still holding this post, he acted as the former Secretary-General’s Kurt Waldhiem’s Personal Representative on the situation relating to Afghanistan.
In that capacity, Perez de Cuellar visited Pakistan and Afghanistan in April and August of that year in order to continue the negotiations initiated by the Secretary-General some months earlier.
Upon his election as the UN Secretary-General in 1982, Perez de Cuellar appointed Diego Cordovez, an Ecuadorian diplomat, to work on promoting peace in Afghanistan.
Cordovez negotiated with officials from the Soviet-backed Kabul government and the representatives of Afghan Mujahideen, who were fighting the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, as well as diplomats from Pakistan, the United States and the then-Soviet Union. He ultimately succeeded in hammering out an agreement in 1988. Under the terms of the accord, more than 115,000 Soviet troops completed their phased withdrawal from Afghanistan in May 1989.
The Accords were signed in Geneva by Pakistan Foreign Minister Zain Noorani and his Afghan counterpart Abdul Wakil.
Top US and Soviet diplomats signed as guarantors of the accords in the presence of Perez de Cuellar, the UN chief.
Perez de Cuellar was born in the Peruvian capital Lima on 19 January 1920, and held a number of ambassadorships for his country, including Switzerland, the then-Soviet Union, Poland, Venezuela and also served as UN Permanent Representative. – APP