Former UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, a Peruvian diplomat who was actively involved in Cyprus, died on Wednesday at his home in Lima aged 100.
Perez de Cuellar was a two-time head of the United Nations, which he led from 1982 to 1991 as some of the iciest years of the Cold War gave way to the end of the Soviet Union and greater efforts at international cooperation.
Over the course of his career, in addition to being his country’s Ambassador to Switzerland; what was then the Soviet Union, Poland and Venezuela, Perez de Cuéllar held many high level positions in Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1971.
During his month presiding over the UN Security Council, in July 1974, he managed the crisis in Cyprus.
A year later, on September 18, 1975, he was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus – a post he held until December 1977.
Perez de Cuellar was the fifth head of the world body and its only leader from Latin America to date.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailed Perez de Cuellar’s crucial role in securing the release of American hostages held in Lebanon as well as peace accords in Cambodia and El Salvador during his time in office.
“He was an accomplished statesman, a committed diplomat and a personal inspiration who left a profound impact on the United Nations and our world,” Guterres said.
Perez de Cuellar once said his proudest achievements were his role in security independence for Namibia and the peace accord that ended the Iran-Iraq conflict. However, his diplomatic efforts were unable to halt the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1990.
After leaving the world body, Perez de Cuellar made an unsuccessful bid for the Peruvian presidency in 1995, losing to incumbent Alberto Fujimori.
He served as prime minister in a national unity government for roughly eight months after Fujimori’s administration collapsed amid a corruption scandal in late 2000.
Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra expressed in a statement on Wednesday his profound regret for Perez de Cuellar’s death, saying the diplomat had “dedicated his entire life to the task of glorifying our country”.