[QODLink]
Americas
Mitchell resigns as US Middle East envoy
White House says Obama administration's special envoy has stepped down, following two "tough" years in the position.
Last Modified: 13 May 2011 20:13
Mitchell, far right, is stepping down as peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are at a standstill [AFP]

George Mitchell, the Obama administration's special Middle East peace envoy, has resigned after more than two years of trying to press Israel and the Palestinians into negotiations, US officials said.

The White House announced on Friday that the former senator and broker of the Northern Ireland peace deal had stepped down for personal reasons.

"[Mitchell's] work has brought peace and increasing prosperity to millions of people around the world and made our own country stronger and more secure"

Hillary Clinton,
US secretary of state

Accepting Mitchell's resignation, Barack Obama, the US president, said in a statement that the veteran mediator "has contributed immeasurably to the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security".

"As a nation, we remain committed to peace in the Middle East and to building on George's hard work and progress toward achieving this goal," he said.

David Hale, the deputy Middle East envoy, has been asked to serve as the acting envoy by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.

"I have every confidence in David's ability to continue to make progress in this important effort," Obama said.

Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, said Mitchell's resignation could be "a sign or symbol that the Obama administration is going to refocus its efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian process".

"Mitchell did make a push for peace, but weeks later it fizzled because of Israel's refusal to stop the settlement building. Since then it really has dropped out of the headlines in the US," she said.

Unfruitful efforts

Mitchell, 77, had spent much of the last two years shuttling between the Israelis and Palestinians in a bid to restart long-stalled peace talks.

Direct peace talks resumed briefly last year but broke down over Israeli settlement construction on occupied land.

Faced with deadlock, the US in December scrapped efforts to relaunch direct peace talks and Mitchell
has not visited the region since then.

In recent months, his activity had slowed markedly as the two sides drifted farther apart.

"From the Senate to Northern Ireland to the State Department, his work has brought peace and increasing prosperity to millions of people around the world and made our own country stronger and more secure," Clinton said in a statement on Friday.

Obama has recently made changes to his Middle East policy team and named Daniel Shapiro, a senior adviser who has helped shape the response to the Middle East upheaval, as his nominee to be the new US ambassador to Israel.

"We've been hearing from the White House that president Obama is going to give a big speech where he'll place a new focus on the Middle East peace process," said Culhane.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
In Brussels, NGO staff are being trained to fill the shortfall of field workers in West Africa.
Lawsuit by 6-year-old girl, locked up for a year, reignites debate over indefinite detention of 'boat people'.
Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are keeping a close eye on local supporters of the hard-line Middle East group.
Citizens of the tiny African nation say they're increasingly anxious of the fallout after alleged coup.
A humanitarian crisis and a budget crisis converge in the heart of the human smuggling corridor in Texas.
join our mailing list