A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

On the Pre-UN Career of Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1922-2016)

Most of the obituaries and appreciations of the late Boutros Boutros-Ghali focus on his 1992-1996 term as Secretary-General. But he should also be remembered for his role as an Egyptian diplomat during the Egyptian-Israeli peace talks in the 1970s.

When Anwar Sadat announced his trip to Jerusalem in 1977, his Foreign Minister, Ismail Fahmy, opposed the initiative and resigned. The number two man at the Foreign Ministry was the Minister of became Acting Foreign Minister, but was not offered the job on a permanent basis, probably because he was a Copt (though his grandfather, Boutros Ghali, had served as Prime Minister in 1908-1910, and who I discussed in a post on the Dinshawai incident a while back). Boutros-Ghali was de facto Foreign Minister through the early months of negotiations.

With Moshe Dayan, 1979
In December 1977 Muhtammad Ibrahim Kamel became Foreign Minister and Boutos-Ghali reverted to the Minister of State role. Kamel and Boutos-Ghali worked together through the negotiations at Camp David in 1978, but Kamel felt the Accords went too far and promptly resigned. Boutros-Ghali again served as Acting Foreign Minister but without the permanent title, until Mustafa Khalil became Foreign Minister in 1979.

Boutros-Ghali would never be Foreign Minister, but he remained a loyal diplomat through the Sadat era and into the Mubarak years. In 1991 he was given the improved title of Deputy Foreign Minister, still short of the ministerial post (again, probably due to an unwillingness to name a Copt), a few months before he was elected to the UN job as Egypt's candidate, arguably an award for his loyalty.

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