Obama: Time to move forward

US president says ME impasse must be broken - with Turkey's help.

June 4, 2010 21:54
2 minute read.
Barack Obama.

Barack Obama.. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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The fatal raid on the aid ship trying to break the blockade on Gaza was "a tragic situation" - but it's time to move forward, US President Barack Obama said in an interview conducted late Thursday with Larry King.

"We are calling for an effective investigation of everything that happened. I think the Israelis are going to agree to that - an investigation of international standards - because they recognize that this can't be good for Israel's long-term security," Obama said.

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He stressed that while Washington and other Western nations condemned the events leading up to the violence, there was no doubt about Israel's right to be concerned about its security.

"Israel has legitimate security concerns when they've got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel-Gaza border. I've been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people's bedrooms," he said.

'Time to move forward and break out of the impasse'

"On the other hand, you've got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future," he added.

Obama expressed hope that it would be possible to convert the incident into an opportunity to make progress in the Middle East peace process. "I think what's important right now is that we break out of the current impasse ... so that we figure out, how can we meet Israel's security concerns, but at the same time start opening up opportunity for Palestinians, work with all parties concerned -- the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others -- and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we've worked through this tragedy," he said.

Nine people, all Turkish nationals, were killed in the scuffle between Mavi Marmara passengers and Navy commandos.

In a show of optimism, Obama said it was time to "bring everybody together to figure out how can we get a two-state solution where the Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace and security."

Concerning the international outcry over Israel's botched attempt to divert the course of the ship, the US president said, "I think that we need to know what all the facts are. But it's not premature to say to the Israelis and to say to the Palestinians, and to say to all the parties in the region that the status quo is unsustainable. We have been trying to do this piecemeal for decades now. It just doesn't work."

JTA contributed to this report.

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