Obama: Progress in Israel-PA talks

Obama opens UNGA, says,

Obama UNGA 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Obama UNGA 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Despite criticism over the previous day's apparently stale tripartite meeting he held with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, US President Barack Obama remained defiant in his pursuit of Middle East peace on Wednesday and maintained that progress was made in Tuesday's talks. "Yesterday, I had a constructive meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas," he said in a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York. "We have made some progress, but more progress is needed." Obama said it was time for talks without preconditions to resolve disagreements on security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees and the status of Jerusalem itself. The US president said the goal is clear: "two states living side by side in peace and security." The president called for "a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967." "We continue to call on the Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continuing Israeli settlements," he stressed. "We will also pursue peace between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Syria, and a broader peace between Israel and its many neighbors," Obama promised. "I am not naïve. I know this will be difficult," he acknowledged. "Even if there are setbacks and false starts, I will not waver in my pursuit of peace," vowed the US president. Obama added that the US "does Israel no favors with its insistence that Israel recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians," and "does the Palestinians no favors" by demanding a stop to attacks on Israel. Obama commented that the greatest price in the conflict "is paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the night. It is paid by the Palestinian boy in Gaza who has no clean water and no country to call his own. These are God's children." Obama exhorted world leaders to step up and do their part in tackling global challenges in promoting security and prosperity rather than waiting for America to do it alone. "The people of the world want change," Obama said in what was his first address to the UNGA. "They will not long tolerate those who are on the wrong side of history." In an era where fast-moving technology binds people across borders and old divides, Obama called for "a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect." Obama said he will never apologize for defending US interests. But he sought to dispel what he said has become "an almost reflexive anti-Americanism" that has swept the globe. To do so, Obama offered a litany of policy changes and actions his administration had undertaken during his first nine months in office, with the overarching message that the United States has no interest in a go-it-alone stance and instead wants to act as an equal partner with others on the world stage. "Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone," Obama said in an address that carried a remarkably blunt tone. "The time has come for the world to move in a new direction," Obama said. "Our work must begin now." "In an era where our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game," Obama said. "No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. That is the future America wants." Obama said that Iran and North Korea "must be held accountable" if they continue to put their pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of international security. "The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise and that treaties will be enforced." On the warming planet, he said "the danger posed by climate change cannot be denied - and our responsibility to meet it must not be deferred." The president said "this is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over." He said he understood the temptation of nations to put economic recovery from recession ahead of work to address climate change, but said that must not be allowed to happen.