UNITED NATIONS — Former Norwegian diplomat and politician Terje Rød Larsen, an architect of the Oslo peace accords, has resigned as president and CEO of the International Peace Institute and apologized for his "failed judgment" in securing donations from foundations related to financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking minors.
The think tank's board of directors, chaired by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, said in a statement that Rød Larsen also apologized for securing his own personal loan from Epstein in 2013 — "neither of which the board was aware of." The former U.N. undersecretary-general and top Mideast envoy has said the $130,000 personal loan was repaid in full from his own funds.
The board said in the Oct. 29 statement that "Epstein's crimes were hideous. The notion that IPI would be in any way engaged with such an odious character is repugnant to the institution's core values."
It said Epstein's foundations donated more than $30 million to dozens of charitable and teaching institutions before his death in the summer of 2019 and many kept some or all of the money. But the IPI board announced that it would donate a sum equivalent to any donations to programs that support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault.
The board said its financial officers confirmed that IPI never made a payment to Epstein. It said a global accounting firm will be commissioned "to conduct an immediate audit of IPI's finances to make sure that all Epstein foundation donations have been identified."
The Norwegian business newspaper DN first reported the close ties between Rød Larsen, IPI and Epstein.
Rød Larsen and his wife, Mona Juul, Norway's current U.N. ambassador, were key figures in the 1990s negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords — the first-ever agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. They feature prominently in the Tony Award-winning play "Oslo" on the secret, back-channel negotiations that led to the accords.
IPI vice president Adam Lupel, who was appointed by the board as IPI's acting president, said in a letter Monday to "friends and partners" of the think tank that "for the past 50 years, IPI has been committed to advancing international peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights."
Despite the recent "very difficult" days, Lupel said, he strongly believes "IPI has much more to contribute, and with energy, creativity, and determination, these first 50 pears will be only the beginning."
IPI's office is across the street from the headquarters of the United Nations, and the think tank has had very close relations with the 193-member global organization. For many years, the U.N. secretary-general has served as the organization's honorary chair.
But U.N. deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq confirmed Monday that a review had been conducted of current Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' honorary engagements to assess their consistency "with the status, the independence and the duties" of his office, and the U.N. chief "decided not to serve, whether in an honorary, advisory, or other capacity, in the governance of any outside entity." Haq said the decision was communicated to IPI in October.