Mitchell: Effort to revive Mideast talks hasn't failed
The United States' special Mideast envoy George Mitchell said Thursday that it was too soon to brand his efforts to resume peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders a failure, Haaretz reported.
The former Senate leader, who brokered the 1999 Northern Ireland peace agreement, said the administration was deeply committed to the peace process.
He said also no president other than Barack Obama has taken action so early in his administration to start peace talks in the region in which the conflicts have deep and historic roots.
"There's a sense of urgency, a sense of involvement and commitment on the part of the president," Mitchell said before delivering a speech on conflict resolution at Colby College, where his father once worked as a janitor.
His speech also came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a report the progress of peace efforts in the Middle East. Mitchell has been shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders for months in an attempt to get peace talks between the two sides going again.
Mitchell acknowledged setbacks in the process, including a United Nations report that accused Israel and Palestinian militants of committing war
crimes last winter.
"We continue in our efforts, notwithstanding that report," Mitchell said. He noted that the United States has taken the position that the report is one sides and deeply flawed.
He said the process has been in motion only for months. His experience in
Northern Ireland from 1995 to 1999 suggests that the current peacemaking
effort could take years.
"I am not in the slightest discouraged," said the 76-year-old Mitchell.
He recalled being asked hundreds of times while negotiating in Northern Ireland when he was going home because the talks were considered a failure. He finally brokered the Good Friday peace accords in 1999.
"The current efforts are as difficult and complex as everyone told me it would be," said Mitchell. "But we are determined to stay the course ... until the job is done."
Mitchell said he and Clinton plan to attend a conference in Morocco on Nov. 2 where they will meet with foreign ministers from most or all of the Arab countries.
"The secretary of state has been directly and personally and actively involved in the process," said Mitchell, adding that he completed a round of meetings this week with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators where some good progress was made.
Clinton reported to Obama on Thursday that the U.S. has made little progress in its efforts to renew stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
An administration official said that during the meeting, Clinton advised the president that challenges remain before the negotiations could resume.