Profile: George Mitchell, veteran diplomat and negotiator

George Mitchell, who has been named as the US\’s special envoy to the Middle East, is an experienced negotiator who helped bring peace to Northern Ireland.

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Barack Obama is to send Mitchell to the troubled region as soon as possible, in the hopes of shoring up a fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas militants.

“It will be the policy of my administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its Arab neighbours,” Obama said on Thursday.

Mitchell faces a tough task, with emotions running high in the wake of a three-week-long Israeli offensive which left more than 1,330 Gazans and 13 Israelis dead.

The former senator and CEO of the Disney Corporation insisted he “did not underestimate the difficulty” of his assignment, and pledged his “full effort to the search for peace and stability in the Middle East”.

Mitchell said his aim was to help secure a two state solution to the continuing conflict, with people from both countries “living side by side in peace and security”.

“[Our efforts] must be determined, perservering and patient; it must be backed up by political capital, economic reseources, and focused attention at the highest levels of our government.

\’Shared vision of peace\’

“And it must be firmly rooted in a shared vision of a peaceful future by the people who live in the region.”

Mitchell, 75, is a Maronite Catholic, whose mother was Lebanese, and whose father was of Irish descent.

He grew up in Maine, training as a lawyer before serving as the northeastern state\’s senator for 15 years, from 1980 to 1995.

During that time he served as Senate Majority Leader for six years.

After leaving US politics, he was appointed as the nation\’s Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, tasked with bringing together the leaders of Northern Ireland\’s warring religious communities.

His work in helping to broker the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 earned him a reputation as a safe pair of hands and a shrewd negotiator.

Following his success in Belfast, he turned his attention to baseball, heading the investigation into the use of steroids in Major League Baseball.