UNITED NATIONS, Jan 20 (APP):The fifth United Nations Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, who played a role in U.N. efforts to bring about the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989, celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday.
Perez De Cuellar, a Peruvian, served as UN secretary-general from 1982 to 1991 — his UN career began with the first-ever General Assembly meeting in 1946.
The current holder of the UN’s top job, Antonio Guterres, has sent his predecessor– the first and only Latin American so far to lead the UN – a letter of congratulaations at reaching his centenary year.
“It is with tremendous pride and joy that I extend my very best wishes as you celebrate your 100th birthday…I have often reflected on your example and experience for inspiration and guidance”, said Guterres.
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 CuÃ©llar 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.
In 1982, his 10 years at the helm of the Organization began with intense negotiations between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the disputed sovereignty of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, and came to a close in 1991 with, as Guterres put it in his letter, “the historic El Salvador peace accords”.
“You can be assured that I speak for everyone in the United Nations in expressing our gratitude for your many contributions as Secretary-General during a period that encompassed both the Cold War and a new era that opened doors for the Organization to be ever more active”, he said.
“Your life has spanned not only a century but also the entire history of the United Nations dating back to your participation in the first meeting of the General Assembly”, he added.
With the UN now at the start of its own landmark 75th birthday year, “We who work at the Organization today strive every day to build on your impressive legacy”, Guterres concluded.