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World

Germany's man at the UN looks to a busy time ahead

Germany took up its non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council Wednesday. Peter Wittig, Germany's ambassador to the UN, has received much credit for making that happen.

Peter Wittig

Wittig is credited with helping to gain Germany its seat

Peter Wittig is keen to show his stripes - red and blue striped shirts, diagonally-striped ties.

On occasions, such as German Unity Day, he chooses to wear black, red and gold - the colors he also wore for the vote to get Germany a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.

Germany won that seat. Through his determination, Wittig is largely credited with helping to make sure that happened - voicing support for reforms to the Security Council and winning over new friends. However, in keeping with his quiet manner he politely dismisses such compliments.

"I am a cog in a larger machine, although I am happy to get things up and running," he said.

Wittig, who will be representing Germany as one of 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council, has been with the diplomatic service for almost 30 years. Before that, he studied history, politics and law in Bonn, Freiburg, Canterbury and Oxford. After his doctorate, he became an academic in Freiburg.

An obligation, and a gift

The Security Council table at the UN

There will be plenty to discuss, including reforms to the Security Council itself

It was in 1988, after his first foreign assignment at the German embassy in Madrid, that he first came to the city that remains so close to his heart: New York. That he was able to return there in December 2009 as ambassador he sees as an obligation, but also as a gift.

"I think myself lucky that I am able to have this great post," said Wittig.

It is the culmination of a career in which Wittig has repeatedly found himself in positions of responsibility. He served in the ministerial office of Germany's longest serving Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and was personal assistant to Genscher's successor Klaus Kinkel. During his time as an ambassador in Nicosia, he served as special envoy for the German government on the Cyprus conflict.

In Berlin he led the "Global Issues" department, concerned with policy relating to human rights, humanitarian aid and the United Nations itself, arriving in New York well-versed in matters across the board. But it's not all work. The city has more to offer.

"I myself am an avid runner and so I use the proximity to Central Park to run laps around the big pond there."

Happy and at home

Sometimes he uses those runs to warm up for a game of football with his sons, Maximilian and Augustus. Since 1996 Wittig has been married to journalist and author Huberta Voss-Wittig and the couple also have two daughters, Valerie and Felice.

The family feels very much at home in the noble embassy residence in New York's Upper East Side. As well as being close to Central Park, the address is also close to the Metropolitan Opera House, an important plus for a self-declared opera fan such as Wittig.

But there won't be much time for such pleasures in the next two years. He knows that the crises of the world - and the thankless, unpromising task of Security Council reform - will take up a lot of his time. Constant stress and late-night meetings are two things he can certainly count on.

Author: Thomas Schmidt/rc
Editor: Rob Turner

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