Obituary: Richard Holbrooke

Richard Holbrooke proved his negotiating skills after the successful 1995 Dayton accords that ended the Balkan conflict.

    Holbrooke faced enormous challenges as the US special representative Pakistan and Afghanistan [Reuters]

    Richard Holbrooke, the veteran US diplomat, died on Monday at the age of 69 after suffering a torn aorta.

    Within days of taking office in January 2009, Barack Obama, the US president, named Holbrooke, best known for brokering the Dayton peace accords that ended the 1990s conflict in Bosnia, as his special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Holbrooke took on the tough job of co-ordinating the White House response to a troublesome foreign policy priority, as nearly 100,000 US troops continued to fight Taliban fighters nurtured in part by their ability to find sanctuary in neighbouring Pakistan.

    The seasoned statesman, who worked as an executive in the financial sector when not at the state department, was said to be a candidate for secretary of state before the job went to Hillary Clinton.

    His meteoric career included postings in Vietnam, as well as serving as the top US diplomat for East Asia, for Europe and at the UN.

    Holbrooke's most notable achievement was bringing all sides in the Bosnia conflict to the negotiating table.

    The talks, held at an air base in Dayton, Ohio, were attended by Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president, Franjo Tudjman, the Croatian president, Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian president and Muhamed Sacirbey, the Bosnian foreign minister.

    The resulting 1995 Dayton accords, which Holbrooke negotiated as assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs under Bill Clinton, the former president, ended the Balkans war.

    The feat earned him a reputation as a hard-charging negotiator.

    Some of his other earlier positions included: US ambassador to Germany from 1993 to 1994; assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 1977 to 1981; and a member of the US delegation at the 1968 to 1969 Paris Peace talks on Vietnam.

    He was also a top foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton in her failed presidential bid in 2008.

    After Obama won the Democratic nomination, Holbrooke then served as one of his advisers.

    Holbrooke was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times and was the author of To End A War.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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