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Ex-ambassador named US envoy for Mideast talks

July 29, 2013 7:41 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 1, 2013 12:35 P.M.)
WASHINGTON (AFP) -- US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday named a former ambassador to Israel as America's special envoy to help shepherd new Middle East peace talks.

Just hours before Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to resume talks frozen for three years, Kerry said Martin Indyk would take on the difficult task of trying to guide both sides to reach a full-fledged peace deal.

"It's no secret that this is a difficult process, if it were easy it would have happened a long time ago. It's no secret therefore that many difficult choices lie ahead for the negotiators and for the leaders as we seek reasonable compromises on tough, complicated and symbolic issues," Kerry said.

"I think reasonable compromises has to be a keystone of all of this effort," he told reporters.

"To help the parties navigate the path to peace and to avoid as many pitfalls we'll be very fortunate to have on our team on a day-to-day basis, working with the parties wherever they are negotiating, a seasoned American diplomat, ambassador Martin Indyk."

Indyk was to join the start of the talks later Monday, at an iftar dinner to be hosted by Kerry, before a full day of negotiations with Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni and her Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erekat.

Kerry said Indyk had agreed to take on this task "at a critical time as the US special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations."

Indyk, 62, brought to the job "a deep appreciation for the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" as well as a "deep appreciation for the art of US diplomacy in the Middle East," he added.

Born in London in 1951 before moving to Australia as a child, Indyk later emigrated to the US and gained citizenship in 1993

He came to the US in 1983, and was recruited to be a member of the main pro-Israel lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

He was founding director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 1985 where he stayed for eight years.

In 1993 he was named then president Bill Clinton's special assistant for the Middle East on the National Security Council.

Indyk served twice as US ambassador to Israel from 1995-1997 and from 2000-2001, during which time he participated in Clinton's failed Camp David summit meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

To join Kerry's peace initiative, Indyk will be taking leave from his current position as vice president and director of the foreign policy program at the well respected Brookings Institution think-tank.

Standing alongside Kerry at the State Department, Indyk said his new role was "a daunting and humbling challenge but one I can not desist from."

"It has been my conviction for 40 years that peace is possible," Indyk said.

"Because of your confidence that it could be done," Indyk told Kerry, "you took up the challenge when most people thought you were on a mission impossible."

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