Giandomenico Picco, a UN ambassador who secured hostage releases and contributed to the end of the Iran-Iraq war, has passed away.

Giandomenico Picco, a former U.N. diplomat, has away. His diplomatic abilities helped resolve some of the most difficult issues of the 1980s and 1990s, such as the Iran-Iraq war and the kidnappings of Westerners in Lebanon by Hezbollah.

Picco died in a calm manner. Following a protracted illness, his son Giacomo Picco announced on Sunday. His age was 75.

Picco was employed with the UN from 1973 to 1992. He was appointed to his executive office in 1982 by Peru’s Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, who went on to become the world body’s fifth secretary-general and assistant secretary-general for political affairs.Following the 1985 sinking of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior by French secret agents, Picco acted as Pérez de Cuéllar’s representative in discussions between New Zealand and France. The ship was opposing French nuclear tests in the Pacific at the time it sank.
He was appointed senior U.N. negotiator for the war between Shiite-majority Iran and Sunni-majority Iraq the following year. The fight, which started when Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor in 1980 and included trench warfare, Iranian attack waves, and Iraqi chemical weapons assaults, claimed the lives of over a million people.

In addition, Picco had an impact on Afghanistan, aiding in the Soviet Union’s 1989 troop withdrawal following its invasion by Moscow in 1979.

Due to his familiarity with and connections to Iran, Picco was able to mediate the release of several hostages who had been taken hostage by organizations associated with the Islamic Republic. Among them was Terry Anderson, the Associated Press bureau chief in Beirut, who had been kept captive for the longest period of time—from 1985 to 1991.

The mission was not without risk. In 1987, Anglican church envoy Terry Waite disappeared from Beirut while trying to win the release of the hostages and was held captive himself — also until 1991.

As Pérez de Cuéllar’s special envoy, Picco faced that risk with personal bravery and an understanding of diplomacy and the Middle East.

“He went to Beirut from the West and I went to Beirut from the East,” I said in response to a question about how my strategy for obtaining the hostages’ release differed from Terry Waite’s. In his 1999 memoir, “Man without a Gun: One Diplomat’s Secret Struggle to Free the Hostages, Fight Terrorism, and End a War,” Picco stated, “In those days, the East began in Teheran.”

During one point in the negotiations, Picco drove to Beirut, where an Iranian official informed him he would meet with the kidnappers that evening. Picco detailed this experience in a 2013 BBC interview.

The car came to a screeching halt, he said, and a bag was put on his head.

“Then I was thrown into the boot of the car, something which I don’t recommend to anybody,” recalled the 6-foot-4 Picco, known for dressing elegantly.

“Of course I knew that I could be taken,” he said. “At that point I had no choice. I had invested quite a bit of time, and my own belief that what I was doing was right.”

Picco eventually negotiated a deal in which the militias would release 10 Western hostages, including Anderson, over several months, In return, Israeli-backed forces in southern Lebanon freed dozens of Arab prisoners.

Picco was born in Udine, in northeastern Italy, near both Austria and the former Yugoslavia. It was a location that influenced his ability to triangulate the needs of different groups and to resolve difficult problems, according to friends and family.

“He was dealing with the hostage-takers, the kidnappers, he was able to draw on this background,” said longtime friend, John Connorton, an attorney with experience in international relations. “Gianni Picco could relate to all kinds of people.”

Along with degrees from the universities of Prague and Amsterdam, Picco also held political science degrees from the University of Padua and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

More significantly, his son added, he had a strong sense of empathy and curiosity.

He was merely an inquisitive person. No matter who you were, he could always pick up something from someone, according to New York financier Giacomo Picco.

The older Picco joined the global organization and was sent to the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Cyprus as the political affairs officer. In 1981, Pérez de Cuéllar took him to the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Regarding the function of the U.N., Picco stated in a 1991 interview that “we don’t try to score a political point in favor of one or another, different from government diplomacy.” “We want to create a scenario in which everyone comes out ahead in the end. And we have all triumphed if everyone does in fact win.In an interview earlier this year, Anderson said Picco was selected for the hostage negotiations because “I guess the secretary-general thought that if he could talk to the Afghans and the Iranians and the Russians and the Iraqis, he could talk to anybody, and he did.”