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US' Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell set to resign

The former special envoy to Northern Ireland, who was key player in the Good Friday Agreement, is said to be stepping down for personal reasons.

George Mitchell is set to wave goodbye to brokering an agreement between Israel and Palestine.
George Mitchell is set to wave goodbye to brokering an agreement between Israel and Palestine.
Image: Majdi Mohammed/AP/Press Association Images

GEORGE MITCHELL, the Obama administration’s special Middle East envoy, plans to resign after more than two largely fruitless years of trying to press Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks according to US officials.

The White House is expected to announce on Friday that the veteran mediator and broker of the Northern Ireland peace accord is stepping down for personal reasons.

There are no imminent plans to announce a replacement for Mitchell although his staff is expected to remain in place at least temporarily.

Mitchell’s resignation comes at a critical time for the Middle East, which is embroiled in turmoil, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been moribund since last September and is now further complicated by an agreement between Palestinian factions to share power.

Obama is expected to deliver a speech next week about his administration’s views of developments in the region ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since his appointment on Obama’s second full day in office in January 2009, Mitchell, 77, had spent much of his time shuttling between the Israelis, Palestinians and friendly Arab states in a bid to restart long-stalled peace talks that would create an independent Palestinian state.

But in recent months, particularly after the upheaval in Arab countries that ousted longtime US ally and key peace partner Hosni Mubarak from power in Egypt, his activity had slowed markedly.

Mitchell was previously the United States special envoy for Northern Ireland and played a key role in helping to broker the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

He was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts in the North and said at the time: “I believe there’s no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended.”

- additional reporting from AP

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Hugh O'Connell

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