The President and King Abdullah on Peace in the Middle East
April 21, 2009
02:17 PM EST
02:17 PM EST
Today the President held a one-on-one meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan in the Personal Dining Room at the White House, followed by an expanded meeting in the Oval Office.
Having discussed a wide range of issues concerning the Middle East during the meeting, from terrorism in the region, to Afghanistan, Iran, and the global economic crisis, the two leaders then gave remarks to the press. The President said King Abdullah "represents a modern approach to foreign policy-making in the Middle East," and King Abdullah in turn offered "warm thanks on behalf of many Arabs and Muslims who really had an outstanding response to the President's outreach to the Muslim Arab world." The bulk of the time, however, was spent on questions regarding Israel and Palestine:
Q I just want to follow on the previous question. You sent Senator Mitchell to the region to listen. Is he done with the listening now and -- because all the signals we have from the Israeli government basically that they are not in favor of the two-state solution. The opposition is strongly advocating that.
So I wanted to ask also His Majesty, President Obama said that there is positive elements within the Arab Peace Initiative, but he didn't say what he disagree about. Can you tell us if you have noticed any tangible results, what the disagreement with that, and can the Arab Peace Initiative be the base now for a peace process in the Middle East?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it is very important to recognize that the Israelis now have had a government for a few weeks and it was a very complicated process for them to put a coalition together. So I think more listening needs to be done. They are going to have to formulate and I think solidify their position. So George Mitchell will continue to listen both to Arab partners, to the Palestinians, as well as the Israelis.
But I agree that we can't talk forever; that at some point, steps have to be taken so that people can see progress on the ground. And that will be something that we will expect to take place in the coming months and we will help hopefully to drive a process where each side is willing to build confidence.
I am a strong supporter of a two-state solution. I have articulated that publically and I will articulate that privately. And I think that there are a lot of Israelis who also believe in a two-state solution. Unfortunately, right now what we've seen not just in Israel but within the Palestinian Territories, among the Arab states, worldwide, is a profound cynicism about the possibility of any progress being made whatsoever.
What we want to do is to step back from the abyss; to say, as hard as it is, as difficult as it may be, the prospect of peace still exists -- but it's going to require some hard choices, it's going to require resolution on the part of all the actors involved, and it's going to require that we -- we create some concrete steps that all parties can take that are evidence of that resolution. And the United States is going to deeply engage in this process to see if we can make progress.
Now, ultimately, neither Jordan nor the United States can do this for the Israelis and the Palestinians. What we can do is create the conditions and the atmosphere and provide the help and assistance that facilitates an agreement. Ultimately they've got to make the decision that it is not in the interests of either the Palestinian people or the Israelis to perpetuate the kind of conflict that we've seen for decades now, in which generations of Palestinian and Israeli children are growing up insecure, in an atmosphere of hate.
And my hope is, is that -- that the opportunity will be seized, but it's going to take some more work and we are committed to doing that work.
KING ABDULLAH: I couldn't have said it better myself, Mr. President. I think we're looking now at the -- at the positives and not the negatives and seeing how we can sequence events over the next couple of months that allows Israelis and Palestinians and Israelis and Arabs to sit around the table and move this process forward.