WASHINGTON - US special Mideast envoy Martin Indyk is resigning after nearly a year of unsuccessful efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, the US State Department said in a statement on Friday.
Indyk will return to his previous job as Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institution think tank, the statement said.
A former US ambassador to Israel, Indyk was appointed to the envoy post last July by Secretary Kerry when he announced a resumption in peace talks with the goal of reaching a settlement within nine months. However, the negotiations collapsed before that target date amid what Kerry and other US officials said were negative steps taken by both sides.
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Indyk will "continue to work closely with Secretary Kerry on the Obama Administration's efforts to help Israelis and Palestinians resolve their conflict," the statement went on to say.
With the peace process in hiatus, it is unclear whether Indyk will be replaced. Deputy Special Envoy Frank Lowenstein will now serve as the Acting Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations.
“Ambassador Indyk has invested decades of his extraordinary career to the mission of helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve a lasting peace. It's the cause of Martin's career, and I'm grateful for the wisdom and insight he's brought to our collective efforts," Kerry said. "Martin's simply invaluable, a terrific partner and friend, and he played a vital role in the progress that was made in the negotiations."
"I am very grateful to Martin for his indefatigable efforts and creativity, and I look forward to continue working closely with him," Kerry went on to say.
Indyk's resignation marks the second time the Obama administration has lost a Mideast peace envoy following a failed bid to bring the parties together. Former Sen. George Mitchell stepped down from the post in May 2011 after two years of frustrating efforts to get negotiations going.
The latest effort, in which Kerry and Indyk had invested significant time and energy, collapsed in March when Israel and the Palestinians each backed out of pledges they had made when the peace talks resumed. Each side blamed the other for the breakdown. The Palestinians accused Israel of reneging on a promised prisoner release and continuing to construct Jewish settlements on disputed territory, and the Israelis accused the Palestinians of seeking greater UN recognition. The Palestinians then formed a unity government backed by the militant Hamas movement, which Israel refuses to deal with.
Indyk, 62, had taken a leave of absence from his job as vice president and foreign policy director of Brookings when he was appointed envoy on July 29, 2013.
At the time, he thanked President Barack Obama and Kerry for "entrusting me with the mission of helping you take this breakthrough and turn it into a full-fledged Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement."
"It is a daunting and humbling challenge, but one that I cannot desist from," Indyk said then.
Prior to joining Brookings, Indyk had served as former President Bill Clinton's ambassador to Israel and was a key part of the 2000 Camp David peace talks. He was also a special assistant to Clinton and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council from 1993 to 1995. And he served as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in the State Department from 1997 to 2000.