The Guardian, 5 December 2022
Jonathan Steele’s obituary for head (in his last years) of AAN’s advisory board, an outstanding diplomat with outstanding achievements who, in his youth, was an activist against Franco’s dictatorship in his homeland Catalonia: disbanding of the CIA-backed “contras”; brokering a deal in El Salvador leading to a ceasefire and free elections; organising East Timor’s referendum for independence; laying the ground for the 2001 Bonn agreement on Afghanistan…
He did not like the word “mediator” to describe his speciality as a diplomat. It sounded too interventionist. In a series of post-retirement interviews for the journal Asian Affairs, Vendrell told David Loyn, a veteran BBC correspondent, that he preferred to tell warring parties that his job was to provide “good offices” or simply say: “We’re here to help.” He made clear that he did not represent the UN security council or the general assembly, but the secretary general [something his successors often forgot].
This low-key, even soft-seeming approach was enhanced by Vendrell’s ferocious energy in insisting on meeting all parties in a conflict and listening carefully and empathetically to their views. He had a formidable memory for detail. But he could also be outspoken in his suggestions for parties to modify or change their stands.
This article was last updated on 6 Dec 2022