World leaders bid farewell to former Israeli president Peres

World Friday 30/September/2016 20:29 PM
By: Times News Service
World leaders bid farewell to former Israeli president Peres

Occupied Jerusalem: Former Israeli president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres was on Friday laid to rest in a funeral attended by world leaders including US President Barack Obama who hailed him as a "giant of 20th century".
Peres, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 93, served as two-time prime minister, minister of defence, foreign affairs, finance and transportation; and, until 2014, as president of the country and did more than anyone to build Israel's formidable military might and its nuclear programme.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Peres as a "great man of the world".
"He soared to incredible heights. He was a great man of Israel; he was a great man of the world. Israel grieves for him, the world grieves for him, but we find hope in his legacy, as does the world," Netanyahu told mourners at the cemetery.
In what is the largest gathering of foreign dignitaries in the history of Israel, President Obama, French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck and scores of other world leaders attended the funeral amid tight security.
Obama, who awarded Peres the presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, is one of the speakers at the ceremony.
He arrived in Israel this morning.
"In many ways, he reminded me of some other giants of the 20th century that I've had the honour to meet," Obama told mourners, as he compared Peres to Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was also among attendees. He was seated in the front row at the request of Peres's family.
Abbas, who is on his first visit to Israel since September 2010 when peace talks broke down, shook hands and spoke briefly with Netanyahu upon arrival.
Abbas, who signed the Oslo accords along with Peres, has called him a "brave" partner for peace.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Jordanian Prime Minister Jawad Anani were also in attendance.
Jordan's King Abdullah II on Thursday sent a condolence letter to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in which he highlighted Peres' efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians as part of a two-state solution.
Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel.
Applauding Peres as the visionary who shaped Israel's future right from its foundation, the Israeli President said that he was not just a thinker but a doer.
"You had the rare ability Shimon to conceive what seemed to be the inconceivable, and see it to fruition. Your eyes saw far ahead, while your feet covered great distances on the landscape of history," Rivlin said.
He "succeeded in moving even the most stubborn of politicians, and to melt away even the hardest of hearts of our opponents," Rivlin added.
Peres, who was the pioneer of Israel's nuclear programme and also backed the creation of settlements in the earlier years only to abandon the idea later as a peacemaker, earned praise for his contributions to Israel's security.
Some 50,000 people paid tributes to the Israeli leader at the Knesset (Parliament) where his coffin laid in state throughout the day.
Former US president Bill Clinton was among those who paid their last respects there.
Security forces were put on high alert as the funeral began, with roads closed and thousands of officers deployed. Some 2000 police officers backed by personnel from other agencies have been deployed in occupied Jerusalem for the ceremony.