Middle East

Shimon Peres: Tributes from around the world

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Israeli President Shimon Peres in the East Room of the White House in Washington in this June 13, 2012 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres in 2012

Leaders from around the world have been paying tribute to former Israeli prime minister and president Shimon Peres, who has died aged 93.

Among them are current and former US presidents who worked with the elder Israeli statesman.

Current US President Barack Obama recalled meeting him in Jerusalem as a young senator, and called Mr Peres a "dear friend" and "the essence of Israel itself".

"Perhaps because he had seen Israel surmount overwhelming odds, Shimon never gave up on the possibility of peace between Israelis, Palestinians and Israel's neighbours," he wrote.

"A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever.

"Shimon Peres was a soldier for Israel, for the Jewish people, for justice, for peace, and for the belief that we can be true to our best selves - to the very end of our time on Earth, and in the legacy that we leave to others."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Oslo Accords were signed on the White House lawn

Bill Clinton said he would "never forget how happy" Mr Peres was in 1993 when the Oslo Accords were signed on the White House lawn. He called him a "genius with a big heart".

"The Middle East has lost a fervent advocate for peace and reconciliation and for a future where all the children of Abraham build a better tomorrow together," he said.

"And Hillary and I have lost a true and treasured friend."

George Bush Sr praised Mr Peres' "innate humanity, his decency". His son George W Bush said his family "will miss Shimon Peres and his grace, dignity and optimism".

British Prime Minister Theresa May called Mr Peres a "visionary and courageous statesman, who worked relentlessly for peace and never lost hope that this would one day be achievable".

"My thoughts go out to the Israeli people and the family of Shimon Peres as they mourn the loss of a beloved father and compatriot - a great man who epitomised optimism and a belief that by working together we can build a brighter future for generations to come," she added.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who served eight years as envoy for the Quartet group of Middle East peace mediators, called him a "political giant, a statesman who will rank as one of the foremost of this era or any era, and someone I loved deeply".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tony Blair and Shimon Peres in 2001

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he and his wife Sara "express deep personal sorrow over the passing of the nation's beloved former president".

"As a man of vision, his gaze was aimed to the future,'' he said.

"As a man of security, he fortified Israel's strength in many ways, some of which even today are still unknown.

"As a man of peace, he worked until his final days toward reconciling with our neighbours for a better future for our children.''

Funeral attendees

A long list of dignitaries and world figures will attend Mr Peres' funeral, Israel's foreign ministry says.

They include Pope Francis, US President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sent a letter of condolences to Mr Peres' family "expressing his sorrow and sadness".

"Peres was a partner in creating the peace of the brave with the late President Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin, and has made intensive efforts to reach a long-lasting peace since the Oslo agreement and until the last breath," a statement said.

French president Francois Hollande said "Israel has lost one of its most illustrious statesmen, and peace has lost one of its most ardent defenders".

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it had lost "a highly treasured friend and partner" and mourned "a courageous and wise voice, who was a constant motivation" to do more.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that "even in the most difficult hours, he remained an optimist about the prospects for reconciliation and peace".

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: "We can only honour his memory with a daily commitment to reconciliation, preserving and advancing his vision for a two-state solution."

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, Indian PM Narendra Modi and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau have also paid tribute.

Image copyright @TurnbullMalcolm
Image copyright @narendramodi
Image copyright @JustinTrudeau

Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis described Mr Peres as a "true giant amongst men".

"It is true that Shimon Peres was a great statesman. He was the noblest of soldiers, a born leader, a uniquely talented diplomat, an inspiring speaker and a relentless campaigner.

"But, more significantly than any of those things, Shimon Peres was the greatest living example of an unshakeable belief in the pursuit of peace against all odds."

Israel Defense Forces chief Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot said Mr Peres, who twice served as defence minister, "left his fingerprints and legacy on all fields of life in Israel", especially the armed forces.

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