Time is right for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace effort, Obama says


LOS ANGELES — President Barack Obama on Tuesday
called for progress in solving the conflict between Israel and the
Palestinians as part of the wave of change sweeping through the Mideast.

Speaking after a White House meeting with Jordan’s
King Abdullah II, Obama said resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict
was vital. Obama is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after he addresses the United States
on Middle East policy, including the pro-democracy uprisings and
related issues.

“We also discussed the situation with respect to the
Israel and the Palestinian conflict, and we both share the view that
despite the many changes or perhaps because of the many changes that are
taking place in the region, it is more vital than ever that both
Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table and begin
negotiating a process whereby they can create two states that are living
side by side in peace and security,” Obama said.

“We will continue to … encourage an equitable and
just solution for a problem that has been nagging the region for many,
many years,” the president added.

Peace efforts have been stalemated for months on
questions including the construction of Israeli settlements, prompting
the Palestinians to consider going to the United Nations in the fall to
seek official recognition for a unilateral declaration of statehood.
Complicating the situation is a recent agreement designed to heal the
breach between the Palestinian groups running the West Bank and Gaza.
The United States, Israel and the West consider Hamas, which runs Gaza,
to be a terrorist group.

Last week, former Sen. George Mitchell, the
president’s special envoy to the Mideast, abruptly resigned. Violence, a
constant threat in the region, picked up over the weekend.

In his speech Thursday, Obama is expected to discuss
the issues that have marked the recent turmoil in the region where
pro-democracy groups have toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt,
shaken rulers in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen and have led to civil war-like
conditions in Libya.

Led by the United States and Europe, the United
Nations authorized a “no-fly” zone in Libya to protect civilians. That
zone is being enforced by NATO.

Obama is also likely to touch on Iran’s ongoing
nuclear ambitions and the recent raid in Pakistan in which terrorist
leader Osama bin Laden was killed earlier this month.

The president told reporters that Tuesday’s meeting
with King Abdullah was “an opportunity for us to share our views on the
extraordinary changes taking place throughout the region.”

Noting that King Abdullah has pushed for reforms in
his country, Obama praised the effort, adding that economic improvement
was needed as well as political change. Obama announced a plan to use
Overseas Private Investment Corporation money to leverage $1 billion of
development in Jordan. He also announced a plan to send 50,000 metric
tons of wheat to Jordan to help stabilize the daily cost of living.


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