White House Middle East Envoy Dennis Ross announced Thursday that he plans to step down in next month. The veteran diplomat has advised President Barack Obama on Mideast peace efforts, the “Arab Spring” democracy movement and Iran’s nuclear program.
In a written statement, Ross said he had promised his wife that he would stay in the position for only two years.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the president’s Middle East envoy showed great commitment to his mission.
"[He] had committed to staying two years, and ended up, because of everything that we have seen happen in the region of the world that he focuses on, stayed for almost three," said Carney. "Dennis has been a remarkable contributor to this administration.”
In addition to his service in the Obama administration, Ross has held diplomatic positions during the presidencies of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. As Carney pointed out, his tenure in the Obama administration came during an eventful period in the region.
“[He was] very much a part and an architect of the sanctions regime and the effort to pressure and isolate Iran, and [he] has been at the forefront of our deliberations about handling the Arab Spring - the remarkable events we have seen in the Middle East and North Africa this year," he said.
Ross will leave the post several months after the departure of the president’s special envoy, George Mitchell, another high-profile player in U.S. Mideast policy.
Administration officials say Ross is leaving of his own accord.
Ross has also served on the National Security Council, specializing in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region.