Egypt and the UN mourned the death of former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 93 at Al-Salam Hospital in Giza.
Prior to assuming the UN position, Boutros-Ghali served in the Egyptian government as acting minister of foreign affairs twice between 1978 and 1979.
Ambassador Maasoum Marzouk, who served as former assistant to the foreign minister after the 1973 October war, expressed deep sadness over the death of Boutros-Ghali. “I worked with him at the ministry for nearly two years during which I, and several generations in the ministry, learnt a lot,” he said Wednesday in comments to Daily News Egypt.
“Remarkably, Boutros-Ghali was able to combine his diplomatic expertise with his responsibilities as a university professor. Therefore he was not a manager to the people as much as a mentor,” Marzouk said.
Marzouk served as ambassador to Uganda and is well-informed on African issues, in which he praised Boutros-Ghali’s role in endorsing positive Egyptian-African relations since the 1960s “during difficult times”.
“I can speak for hours about him and even if he faced criticisms related to his work, I want to keep the image of the great diplomat, whose ‘Agenda of Peace’ is a strong curriculum inside the UN,” Marzouk said.
The UN issued a report in which current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed his condolences to Egypt and Boutros-Ghali’s family. The president of the UN Economic and Social Council, the President of the UN General Assembly, and the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilisations also expressed their condolences, saying the UN and the world had lost an “outstanding diplomat”.
“[My predecessor] brought formidable experience and intellectual power to the task of piloting the United Nations through one of the most tumultuous and challenging periods in its history … As Secretary-General, he presided over a dramatic rise in UN peacekeeping,” Ban said.
Boutros-Ghali became the sixth secretary-general of the United Nations on 1 January 1992 and served a five-year term. The first and only Arab to assume the position as head of the UN, Boutros-Ghali was not elected to a second term due to a US veto, paving the way for Kofi Anan to succeed him.
A statement by ambassador Samantha Power, US Permanent Representative to the UN, was issued Tuesday expressing sadness over Boutros-Ghali’s death. “Indeed, the world lost a distinguished statesman … Mr. Boutros-Boutros-Ghali oversaw the United Nations during a tumultuous time that included the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union,” her statement read.
During his tenure at the foreign ministry, Boutros-Ghali attended the Camp David Summit Conference and had a role in negotiating the Camp David accords brokered between Egypt and Israel and were signed in 1979. He was also among the group that travelled with former president Anwar Sadat in his 1977 visit to Jerusalem.
In October 2015, Boutros-Ghali was to undergo surgery in Paris. The Egyptian state media MENA reported Gahli’s comments following the Israeli-Palestinian escalated clashes in occupied territories, in which a majority of Palestinians were killed.
Boutros-Ghali had condemned Israeli aggression and repressive measures against the Palestinian people and stated that Israel’s violations of the people’s sanctities and rights pave the way for the expansion of violence and terrorism, in addition to ideological extremism in the region, calling on Israel to respect international laws and the UN’s decisions.
The veteran diplomat was the founding president of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) in 2003. Boutros-Ghali was also a member of parliament and part of the secretariat of the dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP).