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(photo credit: AP)
US President Barack Obama on Monday reiterated his country's commitment to previous understandings, including the process launched at Annapolis in 2007, in promoting a peace agreement between Israel and its neighbors.
Obama, who was addressing the Turkish parliament, also voiced unequivocal support for a two-state solution, days after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel was not bound by the Annapolis talks.
"Let me be clear," Obama said, "the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis, and people of good will around the world. That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. And that is a goal that I will actively pursue as president."
He emphasized the need for the two sides to take confidence-building measures while living up to "the commitments they have made."
Both Israel and the Palestinians, he said "must overcome longstanding passions and the politics of the moment to make progress toward a secure and lasting peace."
Turkey, "like the United States, could help Israel and the Palestinians," the US president said.
Ankara, he added, "has been a friend and partner in Israel's quest for security. And like the United States, you seek a future of opportunity and statehood for the Palestinians.
"Now," Obama continued, "we must not give into pessimism and mistrust.
"We must pursue every opportunity for progress, as you have done by supporting negotiations between Syria and Israel. We must extend a hand to those Palestinians who are in need, while helping them strengthen institutions. And we must reject the use of terror, and recognize that Israel's security concerns are legitimate."
Obama claimed that regional peace would also be advanced by Iran cooperating with the international community and forgoing "any nuclear weapons ambitions."
"I have made it clear to the people and leaders of the Islamic republic that the United States seeks engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect," he said. "We want Iran to play its rightful role in the community of nations, with the economic and political integration that brings prosperity and security. Now, Iran's leaders must choose whether they will try to build a weapon or build a better future for their people."
Earlier, the US president said that he stood by his 2008 assertion that Ottoman Turks carried out widespread killings of Armenians early in the 20th century, finessing the sensitive issue by stopping short of repeating the word "genocide."
"Well, my views are on the record and I have not changed views," he said, standing alongside Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
Obama went on to say that he was looking toward ally Turkey to help bridge the divide between Muslim nations and the West, and that he wanted to build on "what is already a strong foundation" with Anakara.
He said relations between the two countries had for too long been defined on mostly military and national security terms, but that they must also work together on the global economic crisis.
Obama said he and Gul had been "very clear that terrorism is not acceptable under any circumstances." He also said Turkey and the United States could build a "model partnership" between a predominantly Christian nation and a predominantly Muslim one.
AP contributed to this report.