Secretary-General's remarks at General Assembly tribute to His Excellency Guido De Marco (Malta) and His Excellency Samir. S. Shihabi (Saudi Arabia)
New York, 25 August 2010Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is always sad to mount this podium to mourn the passing of a former colleague.
Today's memorial is especially poignant, as we pay tribute to two men who played important roles here in this great hall.
They left their mark in consecutive years -- the 45th and 46th sessions of the General Assembly.
They helped steer us through a time of transition for the world and for the United Nations.
For that and much else, we remember them with great fondness and admiration.
Long before I became Secretary-General, our paths crossed – at least, in a manner of speaking.
It was 1991. I was working in my country's foreign ministry.
In May of that year, as President of the General Assembly, Guido de Marco visited Seoul and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as part of efforts towards UN membership for both states.
Then, four months later, on Samir Shihabi's first day as President of the General Assembly, the flags of the Republic of Korea and the DPRK were raised here for the first time.
Of course, the careers of both men encompassed far more than matters involving the Korean Peninsula.
Guido de Marco was not just a former president of the General Assembly; he also served as President of his country, the capstone of a long career in public service.
He led Malta into the European Union and sought to ensure that his country played an active role in international affairs.
I know from my own visit to Malta last year the high regard in which he is held.
At this time of loss, my thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of Malta.
I also offer my condolences to the family of the late Samir Shihabi and the people of Saudi Arabia.
In addition to his outstanding diplomatic service to his country, Dr. Shihabi was a dynamic presence here at UN Headquarters – not least because of his trademark walking sticks.
As his country's Permanent Representative for nearly a decade and as President of the General Assembly, he contributed across our agenda, including to the revitalization of the Assembly itself.
He will also be remembered for founding the Council of Presidents of the United Nations General Assembly and the International Association of Permanent Representatives.
I benefited greatly from his vision and experience and always looked forward to his company.
We are full of sorrow today. But we also recognize the tremendous good they did for and among us. I hope that legacy is at least some solace to all those touched by this loss.
Statements on 25 August 2010