Irish and British politicians have welcomed the appointment of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, a key player in the formation of the Good Friday Agreement, as the new U.S. Middle East special envoy. Mitchell has already begun a tour of the Middle East, starting with Egypt on Tuesday. He will go to Jerusalem and Ramallah on the West Bank later in the week for meetings with leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin called the appointment of Mitchell "an inspired choice" by President Barack Obama. "We in Ireland remember with deep gratitude Senator Mitchell's key role in our own peace process as chairman of the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. While every conflict is different, like Senator Mitchell I believe that lessons learned in one can be of value in approaching others, and the government stands ready to offer any assistance which might be of use," Martin said. Mitchell told The Irish Times that his experience in brokering the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland had persuaded him that no human conflict is incapable of resolution. "There recently, long-time enemies came together to form a power-sharing government to bring to an end the ancient conflict known as The Troubles," he said. "This was almost 800 years after Britain began its domination of Ireland, 86 years after the partition of Ireland, 38 years after the British army began its most recent mission in Ireland, 11 years after the peace talks began and nine years after a peace agreement was signed. In the negotiations which led to that agreement, we had 700 days of failure and one day of success. For most of the time progress was non-existent or very slow." Martin Mansergh, a Fianna Fail minister of state who was a senior adviser to then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern, during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations, said, "Senator Mitchell provided both inspiring leadership and an impartial chair to the Northern Ireland peace talks, which resulted in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and a peace settlement that, despite difficulties in implementation, has been consolidated and is working well. He will be undeterred by the seemingly intractable problems of the Middle East." Bairbre de Bron, a Sinn Fein senior negotiator in the Good Friday Agreement and a Member of European Parliament, said that "George Mitchell played an invaluable role in the Irish peace process and in the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement. He brought to his three years of engagement in our process enormous patience, good humor and finely honed skills as a negotiator. " She added, "George knows from his experience here - dialogue is key and this will mean direct dialogue with Hamas in the time ahead." The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Sir Reg Empey, told the Irish Voice, "Having seen the senator at work over several years in Northern Ireland I know that he has the skills sets to help break the deadlock. He understands what negotiating is, maintains his integrity and patience despite provocation and has the inter-personal skills that are needed for progress."
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