Alvaro de Soto
Alvaro de Soto is a Peruvian diplomat who first joined the United Nations staff as a special adviser to then Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar in 1982. He first came to prominence when he headed the negotiations in 1990 and 1991 that ended the civil war in El Salvador.
Burma and Cyprus
After this success, he became an adviser to Boutros Boutros-Ghali before serving his third Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as Special Envoy to Burma between 1997 and 1999. On 1 November 1999 de Soto was promoted to Under-Secretary-General and selected as Annan’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, a position he filled until the rejection of the Annan Plan for Cypriot reunification in April 2004.
From October 2003 until May 2005 he served as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Western Sahara. On 6 May 2005 he was appointed Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
His mandate required consultation with all the parties involved in the Middle East peace process, including the governments of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. He also liaised with the Palestinian Authority, the Arab League, and other Arab states playing a role in the peace process.
The Middle East Quartet
Alvaro de Soto also worked with the members of the Middle East Quartet namely the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States of America. This grouping emerged from a desire among these four international ‘players’ to engage in the peace process and to try and resolve the problems in the Middle East.
On 10 April 2002, this Quartet started to prepare the ground for what became known as the Roadmap, which lays out the steps that have to be undertaken by both Israelis and Palestinians to ensure that the bloodshed ends in the Middle East and that both of these parties can peacefully co-exist.
Presentation of the plan
The three-part Roadmap was formally presented on 30 April 2003 and was eventually accepted by both sides. It still remains the primary blueprint for ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Alvaro de Soto resigned in early May, 2007 and wrote what has been described as an "End of Mission Report" that runs to 53 pages. It can be viewed via the link http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2007/06/12/DeSotoReport.pdf. The report is dated May 5 this year, just before Mr de Soto stepped down, and was meant to be seen only by senior UN officials. The wording is fairly ‘undiplomatic’, which is why it is such an interesting read.
In his report, Alvaro de Soto says he “frequently felt like the Black Knight in ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, who, after having both legs and both arms lopped off by the King, still accuses his adversary of cowardice and threatens to bite off his legs.” He then goes on to say that since the election of Hamas, “I have been the ‘Secretary-General’s Personal Representative to the Palestinian Authority’ for about ten or fifteen minutes in two phone calls and one handshake.’”
Mr de Soto’s honesty is aimed at all participants. He says the Middle East Quartet have become a “side-show” who took all the pressure from Israel and allowed it to continue with its policies of barrier construction and settlement building. He condemns Hamas for its commitment to the destruction of Israel. He describes the Palestinian’s attitude towards preventing violence against Israel as "patchy at best, reprehensible at worst."
Alvaro de Soto also blamed the US administration for its tendency to pander to Israel’s needs and desires at the expense of everything else. Finally, he fears that the decision to cut off funding to the new government led by Hamas was strategically disastrous, leading to the weakening of institutions and the ability of the elected Palestinian authorities to maintain order. It seems that his fears have already been proved correct with the recent civil war between Fatah and Hamas.
In May 2007 he resigned from the position.