Obama to promote Mideast democracy in policy address

US official says speech won't focus on Israel-PA talks; German Chancellor tells Netanyahu his coming trip to US is ‘significant.’

May 15, 2011 03:25
2 minute read.
US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

US President Barack Obama is expected to call on Middle East governments to respond peacefully to the democratic demands of their citizens, when he delivers a major address on American policy in the region this coming Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Friday.

Obama has always viewed the future of the Middle East and North Africa through the prism of democracy and the yearning of the people there for political freedom and participation in their government, Carney said.

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“I’m sure he will call as he has in the past on the governments in the region to respond to those [democratic] demands through peaceful political dialogue,” Carney said.

Governments who have used force against their own people in the name of preserving stability are only creating greater instability, he said.

“We’ve gone through a remarkable period in the first several months of this year in the Middle East and North Africa, and the president obviously has some important things to say about how he views the upheaval and how he has approached the US response to the events in the region,” said Carney.

The scheduling of the speech on May 19, just two days after a visit to Washington by Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Tuesday and a day before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is set to talk with Obama on Friday, has led to speculation that Obama might be unveiling a new peace plan with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Wall Street Journal on Saturday, however, wrote that according to a senior US official the Obama speech would not focus on the stalled negotiations nor would it serve as a launching pad for new talks.

European leaders who have spoken with Netanyahu in the last few weeks have expressed their hope that Netanyahu will speak of ways to break the impasse in the peace talks when he addresses a special meeting of Congress on May 24.

On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Netanyahu over the telephone and told him that she appreciated the significance of his US visit.

Netanyahu told her that he was committed to the peace process. The two leaders discussed the relations of Israel to the Palestinian Authority in light of the recent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Merkel updated Netanyahu on her meeting earlier this month with Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. They also spoke of regional upheavals.

Netanyahu will also meet with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Sunday, who is visiting Israel for four days.

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