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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2005 Secretary Rice's Remarks > April 2005: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Remarks on the Appointment of James Wolfensohn as Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
April 14, 2005

(12:00 p.m. EDT)

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 a 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.

Released on April 14, 2005

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