World leaders converge on Washington for Holbrooke memorial

World leaders converge on Washington for Holbrooke memorial

On Friday, hundreds of friends and colleagues of the recently departed Richard Holbrooke will convene to honor his career and his legacy at the Kennedy Center in Washington for an event that, just as Holbrooke was, promises to be larger than life.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will both speak at the memorial, and former President Bill Clinton will also attend. In total, there will be three sitting heads of state in the room, 20 foreign ministers, 125 heads of diplomatic missions, and other friends of Holbrooke hailing from academia, the media, and his private life.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will come to Washington for the event and will have a bilateral meeting with Secretary Clinton as well. The meeting is meant to show solidarity between the U.S. government and Zardari, a Pakistani government official explained. Zardari has faced continued political and legal challenges and most recently the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a close ally, but continues to hold on to power.

Also in town for the event is Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who will not meet with Clinton but will give a speech on Thursday morning at the American Enterprise Institute. We’ve been told that Borjana Kristo, chairman of the rotating presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will also attend. Among the foreign ministers attending is Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, will also be attending the memorial, a State Department official told The Cable. Holbrooke will additionally be honored by the planned attendance of a large chunk of the international network of Special Representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAPs). Holbrooke was instrumental in building this network of officials who would meet periodically to coordinate international activity regarding Afghanistan.

SRAPs are coming to Washington for Friday’s event from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey, the UAE, and the United Kingdom, the State Department official said.

With all these diplomatic celebrities in one place at one time, the day is quickly evolving into a conference of sorts, with embassies around Washington scrambling to figure out which visiting leaders will be available for impromptu bilateral meetings, pull aside chats, and the like.

Holbrooke, the consummate networker, would be proud.