Obama: We join with the Israeli people in honoring Sharon's commitment to his country

World leaders, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, François Hollande, David Cameron express condolences to Israel over loss of former PM Sharon.

Obama in New York 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Obama in New York 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
US President Barack Obama said on Saturday he joined Israelis in honoring the late Ariel Sharon's commitment to Israel and he affirmed traditional US support for Israel's security.
In a statement, Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, send their deepest condolences to Sharon's family and to Israelis on "the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the state of Israel".
"We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel's security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples," said Obama.
He also said the United States continues to strive for lasting peace and security for Israelis "including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security".
"As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country," Obama said.
US Secretary of State said his country joined in mourning the loss of Sharon, and honored his memory.
"Ariel Sharon's journey was Israel’s journey. The dream of Israel was the cause of his life, and he risked it all to live that dream," Kerry said in a statement.
Kerry recalled meeting the "big bear of man" during Sharon's tenure as premier,  and expressed admiration for his "lifelong convictions" in the process for peace.
"In his final years as Prime Minister, he surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger. We honor Arik’s legacy and those of Israel’s founding generation by working to achieve that goal," he added.
Meanwhile, US Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday he will lead the US delegation to Sharon's memorial service.
Biden, in a statement, said he and his wife, Jill, were saddened to hear of Sharon's death.
"We send our condolences to his family and to his beloved nation of Israel. I look forward to leading the U.S. delegation to his memorial service, to pay respects to the man and to pay tribute to the unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel," Biden said.
French President François Hollande said that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died Saturday, was "a major player in the history of his country."
"Ariel Sharon, former prime minister of Israel, was a major player in the history of his country. After a long military and political career, he chose to turn to dialogue with Palestinians."
"I extend my sincere condolences to his family and the people of Israel," he added.
British Prime Minister David Cameron reacted to the death of former prime minister Ariel Sharon on Saturday, calling him "one of the most significant figures in Israeli history."
"As Prime Minister he took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace, before he was so tragically incapacitated. Israel has today lost an important leader," the BBC quoted Cameron as saying.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday that he is saddened by the death of Mr. Ariel Sharon.
"He offers his condolences to the bereaved family and to the Government and people of Israel. Throughout a life dedicated to the State of Israel, Ariel Sharon was a hero to his people, first as a soldier and then a statesman."
"Prime Minister Sharon will be remembered for his political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip. His successor faces the difficult challenge of realizing the aspirations of peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people."