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George H.W. Bush Administration: Press Secretary Fitzwater on the Airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel

(May 24, 1991)

We are delighted to announce that this morning at 7 a.m. Washington time, an emergency humanitarian airlift began which will transport the 18,000 Ethiopian Jews in Addis Ababa to Israel. The operation results from an agreement between the Governments of Israel and Ethiopia. We expect the airlift to last 2 days. We have been informed that the operation is proceeding smoothly.

We want to express our appreciation to Acting President Tesfaye Gebre-Kidan of Ethiopia. We understand that the Ethiopian decision to allow the Falashas to depart the country was taken in response to a letter from President Bush on May 22. Our initiative in this humanitarian operation commenced with the visit of Senator Rudy Boschwitz to Addis Ababa as a special emissary of the President on April 26 - 27.

The United States will be hosting a conference in London starting on May 27 to help facilitate an end to the tragic war in Ethiopia. We hope at that time to see the establishment of a provisional government and agreement on a plan for a political transition leading to peace and democracy.

Israeli Prime Minister Shamir called President Bush at about 11 a.m. aboard Air Force One to thank him for the American role in release of the Falashas. The Prime Minister and the President also discussed the Mideast peace process. The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for Secretary Baker's efforts in the Mideast and said he hoped the peace process will continue.

Sources: Public Papers of the President