World leaders remember Israeli statesman Shimon Peres for optimism, patriotism

A file photo dated March 21, 2013, provided by the Israeli Government Press Office, shows Israeli President Shimon Peres (R) toasting U.S. President Barack Obama at his residence in Jerusalem, Israel. The elder statesman died at the age 93 on Wednesday at a Tel Aviv hospital. Photo by Israeli Government Press Office | License Photo

TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Current and former leaders reacted with sadness to the death of Israeli statesman Shimon Peres, praising him for his optimism in the pursuit of peace.

Dozens of leaders across the globe have been invited to the funeral of the former prime minister and president of Israel who died Wednesday. He was 93.

From the United States, President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry were invited to the funeral Friday at the national cemetery at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, where he will be buried. Peres’ body will lie in state at the Knesset on Thursday.

Also invited to the funeral were U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Britain’s Prince Charles as well as the leaders of Canada, Germany, France and Australia, and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. It wasn’t clear which invited dignitaries would attend.

Obama said in a statement from the White House: “Michelle and I join people across Israel, the United States and around the world in honoring the extraordinary life of our dear friend Shimon Peres — a founding father of thestate of Israel and a statesman whose commitment to Israel’s security and pursuit of peace was rooted in his own unshakeable moral foundation and unflagging optimism.”

Obama, who frequently visited Israel, said, “There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves.”

Bill Clinton, who worked with Peres on the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Peace Accords, wrote in a joint statement with his wife that “Hillary and I have lost a true and treasured friend.”

Bill Clinton, who plans to attend the funeral, said “With the passing of Shimon Peres, Israel has lost a leader who championed its security, prosperity, and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on earth. 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.”

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair tweeted that Peres was “a political giant, a statesman who will rank as one of the foremost of this era or any era.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Twitter the country’s ninth leader “devoted his life to our nation and to the pursuit of peace. He set his gaze on the future.”

Ban, the U.N. secretary-general, said in a statement: “I met Mr. Peres on many occasions, and always benefited from his views. Even in the most difficult hours, he remained an optimist about the prospects for reconciliation and peace.”

Even world leaders on not too friendly terms with Israel mourned Peres’ passing.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a message of condolence to Peres’ family, called him a partner for peace, according to WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency.

Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for that contribution in 1994 with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram conveying his condolences,

Putin said Peres “won sincere respect among compatriots and abroad,” the Kremlin press service said.

“I was happy to communicate with this outstanding person many times. Each time I admired his courage and patriotism, wisdom and far-sightedness, the ability to get to the bottom of the most difficult issues,” Putin said in a statement.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a condolence message to his Israeli counterpart,Reuven Rivlin.

“As a senior statesman in Israel, Peres had dedicated himself to finding a political solution to the Middle East issue and was the founder and propellent of the Middle East peace process, which earned him deep respect from the Israeli people and international community,” Xi said.

Peres had visited China several times and Xi said in a statement the Israeli statesman “made important contributions to the development of China-Israel ties. His passing is a loss of an old friend for China.”


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