U.S. Mideast peace envoy plans to resign

The Obama administration’s special Mideast envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, is resigning after more than two largely fruitless years of trying to press Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks, U.S. officials said Friday.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s special Mideast envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, is resigning after more than two largely fruitless years of trying to press Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks, U.S. officials said Friday.

The White House was expected to announce that the veteran mediator and broker of the Northern Ireland peace accord is stepping down for personal reasons, the officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an afternoon announcement that would follow a White House meeting between Mitchell and President Barack Obama.

There are no imminent plans to announce a replacement for Mitchell, the officials said, 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 will deliver a speech next Thursday at the State Department about his administration’s views of developments in the region, ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Jordan’s King Abdullah II also will travel to Washington next week.

In a telephone interview Friday with the MaineToday Media group in Mitchell’s home state, Obama said: “George is by any measure one of the finest public servants our nation has ever had.”

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