Nelson Mandela figure needed to resolve Middle East conflict, says Sir Terry Waite

Former hostage spent almost five years in captivity in Lebanon during the late 1980s

Humanitarian Sir Terry Waite was held hostage in Lebanon from 1987 to 1991 before his eventual release. PA
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A former hostage has said more war was not the answer in the Israel-Gaza Hamas conflict, claiming a “[Nelson] Mandela figure” was needed to end the violence.

Sir Terry Waite spent almost five years in captivity after being kidnapped in Lebanon in 1987.

The 84-year-old humanitarian cofounded an organisation to support families of hostages and has also worked as a negotiator, helping to secure the release of seven hostages in Iran 40 years ago.

Sir Terry revealed his belief that “innocents on both sides” suffer during wartime and that Palestinians and Israelis were the victims of “inadequate leadership in both camps”.

“What we lack today seems to be an international statesman, who can view that situation impartially and really negotiate a settlement,” he said.

He added that finding such a figure would be “exceptionally difficult”.

“What we could hope for, and this is almost a vain hope, is somewhat like a Mandela figure who would emerge from this chaos and be able to take an overarching view of it,” Sir Terry explained.

“We need people of that calibre, who are not going to be affected by domestic politics and are going to be concerned about people on both sides of the divide.”

He added that the war cannot continue as Palestinians and Israelis are being killed while the younger generation is becoming “embittered”.

As an envoy for the Church of England, Sir Terry travelled to Beirut to try to secure the release of four hostages being held there, but was kidnapped and held captive from 1987 to 1991.

He said he was kept in solitary confinement and, when anybody came into the room, he had to put a blindfold over his eyes.

He also faced a mock execution and was beaten.

“Keep hope alive and don’t despair; I had to do that in captivity – five years of isolation, and somehow I had to keep hope alive and was able to manage that. It’s difficult, but it’s possible.”

Sir Terry made the remarks after being honoured during an investiture ceremony held by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.

He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George for his services to charity.

Updated: November 08, 2023, 7:58 PM