Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the appointment of outgoing World Bank President James Wolfensohn to serve as special envoy on behalf of the Middle East Quartet to help coordinate Israelï¿½s disengagement from Gaza and several West Bank settlements.
“As Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, Mr. Wolfensohn will focus his efforts on two areas: first, Palestinian-Israeli coordination concerning the non-military aspects of the withdrawal, including the disposition of the assets that will be left behind; and second, the revival of the Palestinian economy in the wake of the withdrawal,” Rice said upon announcing Wolfensohnï¿½s appointment April 14.
Wolfensohn welcomed the position, saying, “I think there is no more important mission currently than working with the Israelis and the Palestinians to bring about an equitable and a just and a secure solution to the issues that they are facing.”
Rice said that both parties have made significant demonstrations of good faith in recent months but serious challenges remain. She said the responsibility for achieving peace ultimately falls to the Israelis and the Palestinians, but added that Wolfensohn could help advance the process by encouraging cooperation between the parties.
“Working for the cause of peace is the vital interest and moral duty of every free nation,” Rice said. She said that all the members of the Quartet are committed to helping the parties achieve the realization of two democratic states - Israel and Palestine - living side by side in peace and security.
Wolfensohn will serve as envoy on behalf of all the members of the Quartet, which includes the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United Nations and the United States.
Wolfensohn has served two five-year terms as president of the World Bank. Prior to that, he worked as an investment banker and pursued interests in economic development and global environmental issues.
Following is the transcript of Riceï¿½s announcement:
SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. Nearly three years ago, the members of the Quartet agreed to a roadmap for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. From the London conference in February to President Bush’s meeting with Prime Minister Sharon this week, we have all worked to realize the vision of the roadmap: two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
Today we take another important step to realize that vision. On behalf of all the members of the Quartet, I am announcing the appointment of a Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement. We have an opportunity right now to help Israelis and Palestinians build trust with one another and achieve the peace and security they both desire. President Bush is determined to seize the opportunity to help both sides reach their goal.
The parties have shown good faith and political courage in recent months, but the obstacles before them remain substantial. Working for the cause of peace is the vital interest and moral duty of every free nation. Therefore, the United States, together with the United Nations, the European Union and the Russian Federation — the Quartet — are committed to making the difference for peace.
UN Secretary General Annan, EU High Representative Solana, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and I all agree that we must seize the moment and secure the very best person available for this critical mission of Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement. That is why we have agreed on one of the world’s most skilled, experienced and dedicated public servants, Mr. James Wolfensohn, the President of the World Bank.
As Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement, Mr. Wolfensohn will focus his efforts on two areas: first, Palestinian-Israeli coordination concerning the non-military aspects of the withdrawal, including the disposition of the assets that will be left behind; and second, the revival of the Palestinian economy in the wake of the withdrawal.
The responsibility for peace ultimately rests with the two parties and Mr. Wolfensohn can only help them achieve what they are willing to achieve together. His mission is to work closely with Israeli and Palestinian officials to promote cooperation and ensure a smooth transition in Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank. He will also encourage more direct contacts between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves.
Mr. Wolfensohn will report to the Quartet. He will assume his duties on June 1 and he will continue his post throughout the duration of the year. But in view of the urgency of this mission, and taking into consideration the role that the World Bank has already played in the disengagement process, the Board of the World Bank has authorized Mr. Wolfensohn to begin preparatory work immediately, and we appreciate that very much.
Let me also add an additional word of gratitude, Jim. President Bush and I are deeply grateful for the service that you have agreed to give. I know that I speak for all of my Quartet colleagues in saying that we look forward to working closely with you as you embark on this important mission. Every one of us will give you our utmost support. Good luck and God speed.
MR. WOLFENSOHN: Madame Secretary, let me thank you and the members of the Quartet for the confidence that you have shown. I think there is no more important mission currently than working with the Israelis and the Palestinians to bring about an equitable and a just and a secure solution to the issues that they are facing. It’s a real privilege to act on behalf of the Quartet and I do so with some humility since I’ve been in the area for ten years and have some idea of the difficulties.
But I do think the moment is now. I’m honored to have the support of the Quartet. I’m very pleased to have just had a personal discussion with President Bush and I look forward to this further stage of my retirement after I leave the World Bank.
Thank you all very much.
STATEMENT BY WORLD BANK PRESIDENT JAMES D. WOLFENSOHN ON HIS APPOINTMENT AS SPECIAL ENVOY FOR GAZA DISENGAGEMENT
World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn Thursday made the following statement on his appointment by the Quartet Principals as Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement:
ï¿½I am deeply honored to have been appointed by the Quartet as Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement. I believe that there is no more important issue for global peace than an equitable and secure solution to this problem. I look forward to assisting the Israelis and the Palestinians as they strive to reach and implement a peaceful solution that restores hope and confidence to the people of the region.ï¿½
Earlier today, the following statement was released by the Quartet Principals.
SPECIAL ENVOY FOR GAZA DISENGAGEMENT
The Quartet Principals (US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan) announce the appointment of Mr. James D. Wolfensohn as Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement.
The Special Envoy is charged by the Quartet with leading, overseeing and coordinating the international communityï¿½s efforts in support of the disengagement initiative. He will report to the Quartet.
The Special Envoy will be the single international interlocutor at the political level on disengagement and the address for specific needs for assistance to support disengagement. The Special Envoy will work with the Palestinians on specific reforms and steps to promote economic recovery and growth, democracy, good governance and transparency, job creation and improved living standards.
The Special Envoyï¿½s mission is to promote coordination and cooperation between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority on implementation of Israelï¿½s disengagement initiative from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank. This mission does not extend to the military and security aspects of disengagement.
This will require close collaboration with both Israel and the Palestinians to identify and implement those actions and policies to ensure smooth and successful implementation of the disengagement initiative.
The Special Envoy will focus his efforts on two areas in particular:
Methodology of withdrawal, including disposition of assets.
Economic issues related to post-withdrawal revival of the Palestinian economy, including investment and financing issues
The Special Envoy will assume his duties effective June 1 for a mission lasting no longer than December 31, 2005. In view of the urgency of this mission, and taking into consideration the role the World Bank already plays in this process, its Board has authorized Mr. Wolfensohn to conduct some preparatory work immediately.