A diplomatic grandmaster

Lana Nusseibeh pays tribute to the late Vitaly Churkin

The World Today
2 minute READ

HE Lana Zaki Nusseibeh

United Arab Emirates Permanent Representative, United Nations

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin’s sudden death in New York, where he had served as Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations for nearly 10 years, shook the diplomatic community.

I was chairing a session of the General Assembly when approached by Vitaly’s deputy, who asked me to make the announcement to colleagues in the hall. I did so in some shock, unable to absorb it, as we stood to observe a moment of silence and respect. On my mind were his warm and lovely wife Irina – whose birthday we had celebrated in December – and their two children Maksim and Anastasia.

My first meeting with Vitaly was in the imposing Russian mission, a throwback to another era. Our conversation felt like a game of chess with polite manoeuvres back and forth at the opening of our discussion, a grandfather clock tick-tocking in the background as we sipped lemony tea. I thought that I would have my work cut out to develop this relationship.

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