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Obama's Middle East advisor to resign


09:26, November 11, 2011

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Dennis Ross, a key advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama on the Middle East, said on Thursday that he would step down from his post, just as the United States and other key mediators are trying to revive direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

"Obviously, there is still work to do but I promised my wife I would return to government for only two years and we both agreed it is time to act on my promise," Ross said in a brief statement.

Noting he made the decision with "mixed feelings," the veteran diplomat said, "It has been an honor to work in the Obama administration and to serve this president, particularly during a period of unprecedented change in the broader Middle East."

"I am grateful to President Obama for having given me the opportunity once again to work on a wide array of Middle Eastern issues and challenges and to support his efforts to promote peace in the region," he added.

Ross, who worked on the Middle East peace process for the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, had committed to staying two years but ended up for almost three years "because of everything that we've seen happen in the region of the world that he focuses on," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Carney praised Ross as "a remarkable contributor" to the Obama administration, saying he has been "very much a part and an architect of the sanctions regime and the effort to pressure and isolate Iran, and has been at the forefront of deliberations about handling the Arab Spring."

Ross's departure follows that of George Mitchell, who stepped down as the special envoy for Middle East in May, when the U.S., along with the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, a foursome known as the Mideast Quartet mediators, are trying to persuade the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume direct talks over a two-state solution.

The U.S. and Israel are annoyed by the Palestinians' successive moves to seek statehood through the UN Security Council and accede to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a full member.

Quartet envoys are scheduled to have separate meetings again next Monday with the two sides in Jerusalem, as similar meetings on Oct. 26 failed to produce any breakthrough.

In its Sept. 23 statement, the Quartet proposed that the parties present comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, make substantial progress within six months, and reach an overall agreement by the end of 2012.

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