Pérez de Cuéllar, a giant of dialogue and conciliation has left us, but remains

By Staffan de Mistura*  

I had the privilege of working under the leadership of Javier Perez de Cuellar when he was the Secretary General. He had some unique qualities which were not very visable during a long period because one of his main qualities was to be a discreet low key highly professional very sensitive personality.

He would not make strong statements he would work discreetly in the diplomatic channels but his seniorility, his way of being a gentleman in any case with everyone was making him what the Secretary General can be and should be also, a person trusted, listened to, non threatening but principled.

I owe to him the confidence that he gave me when his entrusted me with facing the drama or the tragedy or the emergency of the foreign embassies in Albania. On that occasion he applied what people were not expecting him to do, was huge creativity in trying to diffuse a crisis that was embarrassing embassies of the West and the same time providing potentially an occasion for the and the follow-up government to actually have a sort of repression of the revolt of the Albanian public who were trying to jump into the embassies.

The moment where the Secretary General Perez de Cuellar was able to finally after one mandate where his was trying to do his best in a very entrenched cold war, were vetoes where blocking each other was when the wall collapsed. Then, with the help of highly qualified and motivated and trusted people like.

Alvaro De Soto and Gianna Pico he was able to capitalise what are the best qualities that the UN can apply when countries are ready to negotiate. That is how the Iran/Iraq war was helped in being finalised and ended, that’s how the Afghan conflict was ended and was finalised and stabilised to a large degree. That’s how in fact, Namibia became a success story which is still remembered in the UN history. Bottom line Perez de Cuellar was a gentleman, he was a fine decent personality, and those who worked with him will remember his leadership and his perseverance for ever…


*Staffan de Mistura  is an Italian-Swedish diplomat, United Nations official and former member of the Italian government.  Former Under-Secretary-General, UN Special Envoy for Syria,Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Obituary sent to Other News by the author, on March 8, 2020.