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Deputy Secretary of State, Leader on Darfur, Resigns Post

To: National Desk

Contact: Rajaa Shakir, 202-481-8109, Communications@GenocideIntervention.net 

With Zoellick Gone from the State Department, White House Urged to Appoint Special Envoy on Darfur

Former White House Advisor Michael Gerson Suggested as Top Choice for Envoy

WASHINGTON, June 19 /Christian Newswire/ --  The State Department announced this morning that Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick is stepping down from his post, where he has been instrumental in driving the Bush administration’s efforts to stop an ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

The Genocide Intervention Network today acknowledges the deputy secretary’s progress on the issue, and urges the White House to appoint a special envoy for Darfur to fill the void left by Zoellick’s departure. On June 5, GI-Net joined seven other humanitarian and human rights organizations in calling for the establishment of a high-level envoy.

In particular, GI-Net urges President Bush to strongly consider appointing White House advisor Michael Gerson, a skilled negotiator for peace in both Khartoum and Washington, who will soon be leaving his post.

“Human security in Darfur can only be fulfilled if the United States and the international community puts all possible diplomatic pressure on the government of Sudan to accept the UN peacekeeping force without delay,” says GI-Net Executive Director Mark Hanis. “Appointing Michael Gerson as a special envoy will send a powerful message that the Bush administration is committed to seeing the promises of the Darfur Peace Agreement translated into civilian protection on the ground.”

Zoellick, who was called by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “indispensable in our efforts to bring peace to Sudan and to end the violence in Darfur,” was instrumental in securing the peace agreement on May 5. According to The New York Times, during a trip to a refugee camp in 2005, Zoellick wore a bracelet with the motto “Not on our watch.” With his departure, the White House must commit itself to ensuring the agreement’s provisions are carried out, GI-Net argues.

Michael Gerson, Bush’s chief speechwriter and one of the “25 most influential evangelicals in America,” according to Time magazine, has been a notable force within the White House for strong involvement in Darfur. Many credit Gerson as the primary influence behind Bush’s declaration of support for peacekeepers in Darfur and NATO involvement in February.

“Michael Gerson has been a powerful ally to the people of Darfur, who are calling on the international community to protect them from the government-sponsored Janjaweed militias,” GI-Net Director of Advocacy Sam Bell says. “His appointment would truly signal that the White House will not tolerate genocide continuing on their watch.”

The Genocide Intervention Network works to mobilize an anti-genocide constituency in the United States and Canada to raise the costs for inaction by politicians in the face of genocide. Accessible online at www.GenocideIntervention.net, GI-Net empowers its members with the tools to support initiatives that prevent and stop genocidal violence, in particular by protecting civilians in Darfur, Sudan.