Indefatigable Peres on the road again

Highlights of president’s state visit to Geneva and London include trip to CERN and gala Gorbachev birthday party.

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March 27, 2011 23:28
4 minute read.
Peres

Peres 311 reuters. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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President Shimon Peres, though only five months shy of his 88th birthday, still qualifies as one of Israel’s most frequent fliers.

Only a month after his return from a state visit to Spain, Peres is off again today – this time to Geneva and London. He had hoped to continue from London to Washington for a meeting with President Barack Obama, but attempts to arrange the tete- `å-tete did not produce the desired result.

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The most exciting part of the president’s visit to Switzerland will be his tour of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research that is located near Geneva on the Franco-Swiss border. Founded in 1954, its work soon progressed from the study of the atomic nucleus to higher-energy physics, primarily the study of interaction between particles. Most of CERN’s current activities are directed toward building the Large Hadron Collider, a project that involves global scientific cooperation. This kind of cooperation is part of CERN’s mission statement. The organization is dedicated to bringing nations together through science.

The work on the Large Hadron Collider is conducted deep within the bowels of the earth. The circular tunnel which the experiment uses is 100 meters underground, with a 27 kilometer circumference.

CERN will be the president’s last stop in Switzerland on Tuesday before leaving for London.

Today, he will have a working meeting with Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey; and this evening he will launch a $10 million joint Israeli-Swiss research fund in which the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) will cooperate in the sphere of brain research. Peres is a passionate advocate for brain research and frequently brings up the subject both in official speeches and in private conversations. He is eager for Israel to become the world’s major authority on brain research, and firmly believes that the nation’s scientific talent, which has proved itself in other fields, will also shine in this field.

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In London, Peres will deliver an address to some 200 government leaders, prominent politicians from the opposition and outstanding figures from academia and the media at the prestigious Chatham House, which is the popular name for The Royal Institute of International Affairs. The event, marking 60 years of bilateral ties between Britain and Israel has been arranged by Chatham House in conjunction with the Israel Embassy. Peres has agreed to answer questions following his address, and given some of the areas of dispute on matters of policy between the UK and Israel, this part of the visit is almost guaranteed to generate wide coverage by the British media.

On Wednesday afternoon, Peres will have a working meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, and in the evening will attend the gala 80th birthday party at the Royal Albert Hall for former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who will be hailed by heads of state and high profile representatives of culture, science, politics and sport as someone who can honestly claim to have changed the world. Gorbachev’s life and achievements from childhood to Perestroika, his international peace efforts, and the establishment of his charitable foundation will be incorporated into the multi-faceted program that features entertainers from Russia, the United, States, Germany, Belgium, and Britain.

Tickets to the party’s concert range in price from 400 pounds to 2000 pounds each. Proceeds will be divided between the Gorbachev Foundation and the MacMillan Cancer Support Organization.

Peres will join Gorbachev on stage together with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev for the presentation of the Gorbachev Awards in the three categories in which Gorbachev instituted reforms.

These are Glasnost – contribution to the development of the culture of an open world; Perestroika – contribution to the development of global civilization; and Uskorenie – contribution to the development of modern science and technology.

The Glasnost nominees are CNN founder and philanthropist Ted Turner; film producer and director Steven Spielberg, who established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation; and rock singer and philanthropist Bono, the lead singer with U2, who, for more than twenty years, has supported initiatives to fight poverty and disease.

The Perestroika nominees are Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, the British physicist and computer scientist credited with inventing the World-Wide Web; Martin Cooper, the inventor of the world’s first handheld mobile phone; and the former president of Brazil Luiz Inacio da Silva, who rose from the humblest roots to lead his country into economic reforms and who laid the foundations for the BRIC alliance, which has driven global economic development.

The three Ukorenie nominees are Google co-founder Sergey Brin; philosopher and social scientist Jurgen Hubermas; and engineer Evans Wadongo who invented the solar power lamp.

In September 2003, Gorbachev came to Israel to attend the 80th birthday of the opposition leader Shimon Peres, which was held at Tel Aviv’s Mann Auditorium. Gorbachev is a member of the International Board of Governors of the Peres Peace Center.

Before leaving London on Thursday, Peres will meet with leaders of Britain’s Jewish community.

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