Martti Ahtisaari, center, with Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin in Helsinki, 1997 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
Martti Ahtisaari, 2008 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and President of Finland from 1994 to 2000, has died at the age of 86. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years. Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Prize “for his important efforts, on various continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts”: he was the head of the United Nations committee that led the process that led Namibia to independence, after decades of independence. It was a de facto colony of South Africa, and was responsible for brokering Serbia’s withdrawal from Kosovo at the end of the 1990s.
Ahtisaari was born in Vyborg, a city now in Russia but then in Finland called Viipuri. He was ambassador to Tanzania, Zambia and Somalia for twenty years and then to the United Nations. After becoming Finland’s foreign minister in the 1990s, he was elected president in 1994. During his term, the country joined the European Union, of which Ahtisaari was a staunch supporter. It also hosted a meeting between then-US President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in which the accession of Eastern European countries to NATO, the military alliance that includes most Western countries, was discussed.
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