EU leaders pay tribute as Shimon Peres dies at 93

Shimon Peres (centre) receiving his Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, alongside Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. [Nobel/Wikimedia]

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini lead tributes Wednesday (28 September) to Shimon Peres, one of the biggest figures in Israeli history, who died aged 93.

Peres, the co-winner of a Nobel Peace Prize along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, served variously as Israeli president, prime minister, defence minister, foreign minister and finance minister, in a career spanning decades since the founding of Israel in 1948.

His death was announced Wednesday, two weeks after a stroke.

Mogherini called him a “man of peace, an immense source of inspiration”, and said she was “heartbroken” at the news.

She also pointedly added, the “only way to honour (his) memory is heading towards two states”.

Although the current government of Benjamin Netanyahu is officially committed to a two-state solution with the Palestinians, the peace process has long been in deep freeze, whilst the EU has criticised recent Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Territories.

Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, also paid condolences, saying “We lose exceptional statesman, (a) true advocate for peace, security and dignity in Middle East  and the world.”

That was echoed in Berlin, where German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said “the world has lost a great statesman.

“[Peres] will be missed by all of us. We mourn for a brave and wise voice.”

Peres was born in 1923 in Poland, before emigrating to Tel Aviv at the age of 10. He began his career as a military attaché, before entering politics with the Labour party, whom he served for five decades before ultimately decamping to Ariel Sharon’s Kadima party.

He served in all the major governmental posts, including as prime minister twice, as well as receiving the Nobel prize for his work on the 1993 Oslo accords.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Peres “reminds us that hope will always prevail over hate.”

Both current US President Barack Obama, and previous incumbent Bill Clinton, also praised the memory of Peres.

Aside from his direct political roles, he was also credited with building up both the Israeli economy, and its secret nuclear weapons programme.

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