Uri Savir, chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords, dies at 69

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Uri Savir, a former peace negotiator, diplomat and lawmaker, died on Friday at the age of 69.

Associated with former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Uri Savir was appointed Director General of the Foreign Ministry in 1993. In that capacity, he served as Israel’s chief negotiator during the Oslo process, which aimed to conclude a peace agreement on the final status with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He was also a member of the Israeli delegation during talks with Jordan, which led to the 1994 peace agreement, as well as head of the negotiating team during talks with Syria from 1995 to 1996.

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Savir detailed his experiences during the Oslo negotiations in a book published in 1998, The 1100 days that changed the Middle East.

However, the process ultimately failed at the Camp David Summit in 2001, by which time Savir was no longer involved in the government’s peace efforts. Several successive rounds of negotiations also ended in failure.

Speaking to the Associated Press in 2015, Uri Savir complained that not enough efforts were initially made to create a culture of peace.

Uri Savir. (Credit: YouTube screenshot)

“Political leaders did not involve our constituencies sufficiently in the peace process,” he said.

Uri Savir, born in Jerusalem in 1953, was Israeli consul general in New York from 1988 to 1992 and held various other positions in the foreign ministry.

Additionally, he had a short stint in the Knesset between 1999 and 2001 as a lawmaker for the short-lived center party.

Outside of diplomacy and politics, Savir focused on creating the grassroots cooperation he felt was missing in the process during the 1990s, helping to found the Peres Center for Peace. In 2011 he founded YaLa, a movement that brings together and creates a dialogue between young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa, helping them develop skills in advocacy and activism.

“It is much more important that Arabs and Israelis study together than I sit 500 hours ago in Yasser Arafat. This is what I believe in today. I didn’t understand that 20 years ago, “Savir told AP in 2015.

Members of Yala Young Leaders, an internet-based peace movement of young people from the Middle East and North Africa, at the group’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 2, 2015. (AP / Dan Balilty).

Despite several failed rounds of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians since Oslo, Savir remained adamant in his belief in a peaceful resolution and a two-state solution.

“I believe that eventually there will be a two-state solution. I believe the majority want peaceful coexistence, “he said in 2015.

When the White House led an economic summit in Bahrain in a Middle East peace effort initiated by former US President Donald Trump, Savir was skeptical.

“Unless there is a real political promise, which I do not currently see, of a serious move towards a two-state solution, I don’t think the economic front will be promising,” he told CNN in 2018, while acknowledging that it is. was a step in the right direction.

On the first day of Rosh-Hashana, the Jewish New Year, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, accompanied by his bespectacled aide Uri Savir and a team of security guards, walked away from the Plaza Hotel at Park East Synagogue on East 67th Street in New York on September 28, 1992. (AP Photo / David Karp)

On Saturday, Israeli politicians expressed their condolences for Savir’s death.

“Today we lost an important diplomat, a former director general of the foreign ministry,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter. “He was a person who dedicated his life to Israeli foreign policy and worked for peace in the Middle East. He did it with total faith and great skill. His contribution to the State of Israel is enormous and still very much felt today. “

Labor MP Emilie Moatti tweeted: “I share the Savir family’s grief over the death of their loved one, a peace camp member, one of the bravest, diplomat and former MP Uri Savir. “

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