Mitchell to Middle East

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports:

President Obama is wasting no time jumping into the messy business of brokering Middle East peace. On Monday he sent his new envoy, former Sen. George Mitchell, on his first official trip to the region.

"He's going out to listen," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. "He wants to hear what the leaders have to say.  And he's going to report back to the secretary and the president on his trip and we'll begin to continue formulating policy from there."

When announcing the appointment of his envoys at the State Dept last Thursday, Obama said he would be sending Mitchell to the region "as soon as possible to help the parties ensure that the cease-fire that has been achieved is made durable and sustainable."

Mitchell's itinerary reflects his broad mandate to bring peace to the Holy Land.

Stops in Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Cairo will aim to revive badly damaged peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians and seek to ensure a fragile ceasefire in Gaza holds. A possible stop in Turkey will try to jumpstart Turkish mediated peace talks with Syria. A visit to Saudi Arabia is a nod to the Saudi-backed Arab Peace Initiative, which Obama said Thursday "contains constructive elements that could help advance these efforts." Mitchell will also make stops in Europe to make sure allies are all on board.

Spokesman Wood elaborated, "Special Envoy Mitchell will work to consolidate the cease-fire in Gaza, establish an effective and credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime to prevent the rearming of Hamas, facilitate the reopening of border crossings, and develop an effective response to the immediate humanitarian needs of the Palestinians in Gaza and eventual reconstruction, and reinvigorate the peace process."

Mitchell is no stranger to the Middle East peace process. He authored a 2001 report calling on Israel to halt construction of new settlements and urging Palestinians to abandon terror tactics.

The former Senator from Maine also helped mediate a peace in Northern Ireland. He referenced his success there as an example for the Middle East when he was appointed last week, affirming, "there is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended. Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings; they can be ended by human beings."

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