November 10th, 2011
03:14 PM ET
Washington (CNN)- Dennis Ross, one of the president’s top advisors dealing with Middle East policy, announced he’s stepping down from his post Thursday, leaving prospects for the administration’s efforts to restart the peace process even more uncertain.
He cited a promise he made to his wife to only serve in the Obama administration for two years.
Ross, who has served in key diplomatic positions during the first Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations, said in a statement, “It has been an honor to work in the Obama Administration and to serve this President, particularly during a period of unprecedented change in the broader Middle East.”
“Obviously, there is still work to do but I promised my wife I would return to government for only two years and we both agreed it is time to act on my promise,” added Ross. “I am grateful to President Obama for having given me the opportunity once again to work on a wide array of Middle Eastern issues and challenges and to support his efforts to promote peace in the region.”
Ross’s formal title is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the “Central Region,” the key area that includes Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Persian Gulf, and South Asia. His influence is hard to understate, having been handed a portfolio that includes the United State’s most pressing national security interests and regions that have undergone significant turmoil over the last two years.
During his daily briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called Ross a “remarkable contributor to this administration.”
“He is…very much a part and an architect of the sanctions regime and efforts to pressure and isolate Iran and 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,” said Carney.
Asked how Ross’ departure would impact the administration’s efforts to forge a Middle East peace agreement, Carney said the White House would “build on the good work he has done going forward.”