Pleased to meet you: the historic handshakes that shook the world

Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi sealed a new beginning yesterday with a firm handshake. Terry Kirby reports on the moments when a simple greeting brought together the fiercest of foes
Click to follow
Indy Politics

Kim Jong-Il and Kim Dae-Jung Pyongyang, 13 June 2000

Kim Jong-Il and Kim Dae-Jung Pyongyang, 13 June 2000

After more than half a century of enmity and war between the two Koreas, their leaders held their first summit in the North Korean capital. The notoriously reclusive Kim Jong Il, "Dear Leader" of the North, surprised the world by appearing at all. After a brief meeting at the airport, the two leaders drove into the city together where they held talks. The summit was followed by meetings between families divided for 50 years.

Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, White House, 13 September 1993

This was the first handshake between two previously sworn enemies and followed several months of negotiations leading to the "Oslo Accords". More than 10 years later, the deal lies in tatters. Although there is some self-government for the Palestinians, Israel's government, under Ariel Sharon, has not withdrawn from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Richard Nixon and Chou En-Lai, Peking airport, 21 February 1972

Nixon remembered how John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's secretary of state, offended the Chinese prime minister at the Geneva conference of 1954 by refusing to shake his hand because of the Communist takeover of China and support for North Korea. So when Nixon made his historic visit to China, the first by a post-war US leader, he made a point of greeting Chou with an outstretched hand when the men met at Peking airport.

Many, however, saw Nixon's visit as a desperate attempt to divert attention from Watergate. He was forced out of office in August 1974 and died in 1994. Chou En-Lai died in 1976.

Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk, South Africa, 8 August 1990

After 26 years in prison, Nelson Mandela was released in February 1994 by FW De Klerk who had become president of South Africa the previous year. By the time this photograph was taken, Mr Mandela had assumed the leadership of the African National Congress. The meeting marked the moment when the ANC renounced the armed struggle. Within a year, the first free elections were held and the ANC was victorious. Mr Mandela became the first black leader of the country, which he went on to describe as the "rainbow nation" where people of all races could live together in harmony. Mr Mandela stepped down three years later but remains a figure of enormous influence and symbolism both in Africa and the rest of the world.

Pervez Musharraf and Atal Vajpayee, Kathmandu, 6 January 2002

The long-term conflict between Indian and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, and already the source of several bitter border wars over the disputed Kashmir region, escalated late in 2001, watched anxiously by a world made nervous by the 11 September attacks.

In January, the two leaders met at the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, a moment of orchestrated theatre that many hoped would lead to a breakthrough. But it never happened and tensions continued to rise, culminating in Pakistan's test-firing of missiles which could carry nuclear warheads in May 2002.

Not before nearly two more years of eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation did both sides pull back, with mutual declarations of ceasefires. In December last year, airline links were restored and the two countries have just staged the first cricket matches between them for many years.

Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, White House lawn, 26 March 1979

Israel and Egypt ended 30 years of conflict, including three wars, with a peace treaty brokered by President Carter after the negotiation that became known as the Camp David accords.

The process had begun a year earlier with Sadat's historic visit to the Knesset. Sadat and Begin were both later awarded the Nobel peace prize. Israel honoured its agreement to withdraw its troops from the Sinai desert, occupied during the Six Day War of 1967.

Carter left office in 1981 amid the crisis caused by US hostages held at the embassy in Tehran, but he is still an active peace campaigner. Sadat was assassinated in October 1981 by army extremists and Begin stepped down in 1983; he died in 1992.

Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Harry S Truman Potsman, Germany, 23 July 1945

The three victorious Allied leaders at the end of the Second World War agreed the strategy for a post-war Europe, including the demilitarisation and administration of Germany and Austria. The underlying tension at the conference was the suspicion of Britain and the US of Stalin's motives, because he had installed communist governments throughout much of eastern Europe as his armies had swept back the Germans. Truman confided to Stalin of his powerful new weapon - the atomic bomb that would soon be dropped on Japan. But Stalin, thanks to his spies on the Manhattan project, was already aware. The meeting was the last between the "Big Three" and within six months, the friendship was history as Churchill spoke of an "iron curtain" over Europe.

Gerry Adams and Bill Clinton Belfast, 12 December 1995

Gerry Adams was photographed shaking hands with Bill Clinton during a visit to Belfast in 1995. The US administration had made no provision for the event to be photographed, but it was captured unofficially by Richard McAuley, Mr Adams's press aide. It was circulated worldwide.

The image was critical to the lengthy process of bringing the political leadership of the Republican movement in from the cold, only a year after their ceasefire was announced. But it was broken just months later with an IRA bomb in London's Docklands.

Clinton was critical in bringing about the Good Friday agreement in 1998, and Adams is among the most powerful politicians in Ireland. As yet, there is no photograph of a handshake between Adams and Tony Blair.

Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer, Reykjavik, July 1972

The World Chess Championship turned into a Cold War confrontation between the dour Russian and the unpredictable American. Fischer reportedly only turned up after a late call from Henry Kissinger, then US Secretary of State. The contest lasted from July to September and was won by Fischer, who resigned in 1975. He re-appeared to challenge Spassky to a re-match in 1992, which he won.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, Versoix, Switzerland, November 19, 1985

The right-wing president and Gorbachev met for the first time to discuss nuclear weapons and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The summit was a success and paved the way for a stormier meeting a year later in Reykjavik. Within a year Gorbachev had instigated the policies of glasnost and perestroika. Reagan ended his presidency in 1989 and Gorbachev was forced out in 1991.