Thursday, September 23, 2010

President Obama Urges Arab Countries to Support Talks

Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly three weeks after Israeli and Palestinian officials resumed direct peace talks, Obama urged world leaders to make sure "this time is different" from previous failed efforts to end the six-decade conflict.

The U.S.-brokered talks are in danger of collapsing almost before they have begun because of the September 30 expiration of Israel's self-imposed, partial moratorium on new construction in Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank.

Israel's refusal so far to maintain the freeze and the Palestinians' threat to walk out if it does not have imperiled the negotiations, which aim to resolve the main issues in the conflict within a year.

"We believe that the moratorium should be extended," Obama said. "We also believe that talks should press on until completed ... Now is the time for this opportunity to be seized, so that it doesn't slip away."

In a somewhat subdued speech, Obama told Iran the United States remained open to diplomacy to resolve questions about its nuclear program -- which Washington believes aims to develop weapons despite Tehran's denials.

While Obama said the world economy had pulled back from the brink of depression, before starting talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao he said both the United States and China "have more work to do" to ensure balance, sustained economic growth.

Speaking to reporters as he and Wen began their meeting, Obama made no mention of the elephant in the room -- their sharp disagreement over the value of the Chinese currency.

Obama delivered his global message from the U.N. podium at a time when Americans are fixated by the sluggish U.S. economy ahead of November 2 congressional elections, in which voters are expected to punish his Democrats and reward Republicans.


In a roughly half-hour address before the General Assembly, whose speakers on Thursday include the leaders of China, Iran, Turkey and Iraq, Obama devoted much of his time to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The U.S. president, who brought the two sides together in Washington on September 2 to restart direct talks after a 20-month hiatus, spelled out that Arab states must show Israel how much it has to gain from seeking peace.

Speaking in unusually blunt terms, Obama urged countries that have pledged to back the Palestinians to follow through with political and financial support and said they "must stop trying to tear Israel down."

"Many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians. But these pledges must now be supported by deeds," he said.

"Those who have signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by taking tangible steps toward the normalization that it promises Israel," he added. Related Posts with Thumbnails




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