Taft steps down as Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues

In an anticipated move as part of the transition from the Clinton Administration to the Bush Administration, Julia Taft has resigned her post as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. Her resignation also means that she will no longer carry out her duties as the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, an appointment designed to promote the substantive dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama and his representatives.

It has been reported that she may take a position at the Peace Corps.

Mrs. Taft, a leading authority on refugee and humanitarian affairs, has held senior positions in both government and the private sector throughout her career. Since her appointment by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on January 20, 1999, she has served as the U.S. government’s official voice on Tibet.

“Julia Taft’s long experience in refugee affairs was an asset to the programmatic work of the Office of the Special Coordinator,” said Mary Beth Markey, Director of Government Relations for the International Campaign for Tibet. “On humanitarian and development issues she was insightful and creative.”

Reached in Europe, Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, remarked, “Julia Taft has carried out her responsibilities with full commitment and has laid a solid foundation. Unfortunately, her efforts to promote dialogue were unsuccessful because of continued intransigence on the part of the Beijing government. I hope that Secretary of State designate Colin Powell will quickly make a senior appointment to this important post so that momentum is not lost.”

Powell, who was questioned in his confirmation hearing Wednesday about the role Special Coordinator will play in the Bush Administration, described the incoming administration’s plans for the position to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“It will be an important role,” he said, “I have about figured out how to man that office, and the role it should have in helping us develop a policy that will hopefully bring some reconciliation between the people of Tibet, the Tibetans, and the Chinese. I think we have to re-energize our discussions with the Chinese,” Powell continued, “and show our interest in solidarity with the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet.”

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