ABC's Kirit Radia reports: Kirit Radia reports:
Former Senator George Mitchell is stepping down as US special envoy for Mideast peace, an administration official tells ABC News.
The White House is expected to announce Mitchell’s departure later today. The official said the 79 year-old Mitchell is leaving for “personal reasons.”
The timing is somewhat awkward. Mitchell’s resignation comes just a week before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington and is expected to present new ideas on how to break the log jammed negotiations with the Palestinians. That process, stalled before it even began, hit a new snag in recent weeks when the Palestinian Authority struck a deal with rival Hamas, which has refused to renounce violence against Israel.
Mitchell was a tireless optimist who insisted peace was possible, frequently citing his success in brokering peace in Northern Ireland after many years of conflict there.
After 18 months of shuttle diplomacy by Mitchell and others, the Obama administration finally launched talks between Netanyahu and Abbas in early September and pledged to have a framework deal within a year. Just weeks later the talks fell apart over a dispute about settlements in the West Bank and months later the administration abandoned the effort, but maintained it could get some sort of agreement within that same timeline.
Mitchell’s departure comes well before that year is up.