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September 23, 10

NEWS / US leader presses for Middle East peace during address to UN

23 September 2010 – United States President Barack Obama today called on the international community to put their weight behind the Middle East peace process as he used his address to the United Nations General Assembly to urge Israelis and Palestinians to press ahead with efforts to bolster trust.

Following months of proximity talks, direct Middle East negotiations were launched earlier this month by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, when they came together in Washington D.C. under US auspices.

Mr. Obama noted at the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate in New York that there is high level of pessimism surrounding this process.

“The cynics say that Israelis and Palestinians are too distrustful of each other, and too divided internally, to forge lasting peace,” he said. “Rejectionists on both sides will try to disrupt the process, with bitter words and with bombs.”

But the US leader warned that without an agreement, “Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that come with their own State.”

Israelis, he pointed out, “will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbours who are committed to co-existence.”

Mr. Obama encouraged Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas to back up their verbal commitments with action.

“But the road that they must travel is difficult, which is why I call upon the Israelis and Palestinians – and the world – to rally behind the goal that these leaders share,” he said.

The international community must play its part as well, the President said.

Those who are friends of Israel must recognize that the country’s true security requires an independent Palestine, he said, while those who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that their rights “will be won only through peaceful means – including a genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.”

The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as the UN itself, Mr. Obama said, calling for urgent action now.

“We can come back here, next year, as we have for the last sixty, and make long speeches about it,” he said. “We can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life.”

Instead, Mr. Obama said, the better alternative is to “reach what’s best within ourselves,” voicing hope that next year, an agreement will have been reached allowing the UN to welcome its newest member: “an independent, sovereign State of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”

His speech also focused on Iran’s nuclear programme, which the country says is for peaceful purposes but some others assert is driven by military ambitions.

The programme has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to talk through it,” Mr. Obama emphasized today.

But the country’s Government must demonstrate a clear commitment and confirm the peaceful intent of its nuclear programme, he added.




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