The Foreign Minister of Solomon Islands, the Hon. Peter Shanel, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade and the RAMSI Special Coordinator Graeme Wilson, today welcomed the appointment of Mr Nicholas Coppel as the next Special Coordinator of RAMSI.

Mr Coppel will replace Mr Wilson following a brief hand-over period at the end of March. Mr Wilson has been Special Coordinator since January 2009 and will depart Solomon Islands in early April 2011.

Hon. Shanel said the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) was looking forward to continuing its close cooperation with RAMSI under the leadership of Mr Coppel, particularly as planning begins for RAMSI's transition.

"It is just as important now as it was when the mission first came to Solomon Islands, that RAMSI and the Government work closely together to meet the challenges that face this nation."

He said it was pleasing to note that Mr Coppel already had strong experience in the Pacific region, most recently as Assistant Secretary, Pacific Regional and New Zealand Branch in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australia.
Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Mr Slade, noting the PIFís continuing oversight role in relation to RAMSI, said Mr Coppel would have an important leadership role to play in coordinating the work of the mission, in which all members of the Forum play an active part.

Secretary-General Slade welcomed the close and collaborative relationship between the PIF, the SIG and RAMSI, and noted the strong ongoing support of all PIF members for the mission.

Outgoing Special Coordinator, Graeme Wilson, said he was proud of what RAMSI and Solomon Islands continued to achieve in partnership.

"As RAMSI plans its transition, I believe Solomon Islanders can have confidence in the solid foundation we have laid down together for the country's recovery and this nation's future," Mr Wilson said.

Mr Wilson said Mr Coppel's broad experience and diverse skills would be put to good use in leading RAMSI.

"Working with Solomon Islanders and leading a group of dedicated men and women from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific is challenging, rewarding and a great privilege," Mr Wilson said.

The appointment of Mr Coppel, who was nominated by the Australian Government in accordance with the RAMSI Treaty, was confirmed following consultation with the Solomon Islands Government and the Pacific Islands Forum. Prior to undertaking the role of Assistant Secretary, Pacific Regional and New Zealand Branch in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australia, Mr Coppel held a number of positions in Canberra and overseas including as Deputy High Commissioner to Port Moresby. Between 2006 and 2008, Mr Coppel was seconded to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet where he ran the branch responsible for the Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the United Nations.

Mr Coppel said he was looking forward to working with Solomon Islanders and the region to build on the progress made through the RAMSI-Solomon Islands partnership over the last seven and a half years.

"I particularly look forward to maintaining the close working relationship that has been established between RAMSI, the Solomon Islands Government and the Pacific Islands Forum with the aim of continuing to build a peaceful, well governed and more prosperous Solomon Islands."