January 27, 2009

George Mitchell, Special Envoy for Middle East Peace

George Mitchell has had a long, distinguished and varied career in public service. He began as a lawyer in the U.S. Justice Department from 1960 until 1979 before becoming a federal district court judge. In 1980, Mitchell was appointed U.S. Senator from Maine. He was elected to full Senate terms in 1982 and 1988. While in the Senate, he was a member of the Select Committee on Iran-Contra and he voted against the resolution to enter the Gulf War in 1991. George Mitchell served as Senate majority leader from 1988 until 1994.

In 1996, Mitchell was appointed as President Clinton’s special envoy to Northern Ireland. As part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Mitchell developed the concept of ‘parallel decommissioning’ outlining a progressive disarmament to match political progress. In 1999, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. From 2000-2001, Mitchell led the Sharm el-Sheikh International Fact-Finding Committee, which examined the breakdown of the peace process and the outbreak of violence in 2000. It recommended that Israel freeze settlement expansion, the Palestinians crack down on terrorism and that both sides agree to cease acts of violence unconditionally.

As special envoy for Middle East peace, Mitchell will be tasked with helping to formulate a strategy that protects Israel’s security while creating a sustainable and secure end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with two states living side by side, and promoting additional peace accords between Israel and its Arab neighbors as well as working to develop a program for humanitarian aid and eventual reconstruction in Gaza. A State Department official said that Mitchell will work out of the State Department.

Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Richard Holbrooke joined the Foreign Service in 1962 and served in Vietnam from 1963 to 1966. Holbrooke was a member of Averell Harriman’s delegation at the 1968-69 Paris Peace talks on Vietnam. He also served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 1977 to 1981 and U.S. ambassador to Germany in 1993 and 1994.

As assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs from 1994 to 1996, Holbrooke was the chief architect of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The 1995 agreement ended fighting in Bosnia and created two Bosnian entities (the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation) to function within one overarching government. He was later nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Holbrooke served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001.

As special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Holbrooke will have the authority to coordinate between various agencies within the government to implement an integrated approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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“We knew at the outset that the task would be difficult. We acknowledged that publicly and privately. We knew this would be a road with many bumps— and there have been many bumps—and that continues to this day. But we are not deterred. We are, to the contrary, determined more than ever to proceed to realize the common objective, which we all share, of a Middle East that is at peace with security and prosperity for the people of Israel, for Palestinians, and for all the people in the region. We will continue our efforts in that regard, undeterred and undaunted by the difficulties, the complexities or the bumps in the road.”—George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, September 29, 2010

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