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21 April 2009




THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secrectary

For Immediate Release
April 21, 2009

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND KING ABDULLAH OF JORDAN
IN JOINT PRESS AVAILABILITY

Oval Office
11:23 A.M. EDT


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody. Take your time, guys. We're going to answer a few questions.

First of all, I just want to welcome His Majesty King Abdullah to the White House. This is a first visit by a leader of another state; in part, it's reciprocity for the extraordinary hospitality that the King and Queen showed me when I visited Jordan prior to the election -- in which the King had personally drove me to the airport. And I won't tell you how fast he was going. (Laughter.)

But more importantly, it's representative of his excellent leadership internationally, as well as a unmatched friendship with the United States upon a whole range of issues. I think that King Abdullah represents a modern approach to foreign policy-making in the Middle East, a approach that is able to see many different sides of an issue, that is obviously constantly mindful of Jordanian interests, but also seeks to resolve issues and conflicts in a peaceful and respectful fashion.
We are very pleased to have been able to work so closely with his government for many years. It is a great friendship between two great countries and two great peoples. And I am confident that that friendship will only be strengthened.

Very briefly, we spoke obviously about a Middle East peace process, my commitment as well as his to moving that process forward with some sense of urgency. We spoke about the broader hope on a range of issues related to Iran and Afghanistan; the issues of terrorism in the region. We spoke about the impact that the economic crisis may be having on both our countries and the need to promote effective international cooperation around those issues. And I'm confident that in the months and years to come our partnership and our friendship will continue to grow.

So I'm grateful to him for having visited and look forward to seeing him back in his own country sometime soon.

KING ABDULLAH: Thank you. Mr. President, again, thank you very much for this very kind welcome. We had a wonderful meeting just recently and I believe it was a meeting of the minds. We are both committed to bringing peace and stability to our part of the world. The President again reaffirming the need for a two-state solution and to move both parties to good negotiations as quickly as possible. He has the full support of my country and the Arab League on this issue. We believe that it is important for all of us to keep our eyes on the prize, and the prize is peace and stability finally for all the people of our region.
I'd also like to extend a 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. It has gone on extremely well and really begins I believe a new page of mutual respect and mutual understanding between cultures. And I will -- I continue to commit Jordan and myself to working with you, Mr. President. You have given us hope for a bright future for all of us. And America can't be left by itself to do all the heavy lifting, so a group of countries, including Jordan, will do all we can to support you, Mr. President, in your endeavors. And hopefully under your tremendous leadership we will find some peace and stability in our region.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.

Q Mr. President, you've raised a lot of positive signals and interest in your commitment to peace and to a two-state solution. What other actions will you be taking to bring about peace, and when do you expect that action to happen? And how does the Arab Peace Initiative feature in such a plan?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, we have gone out of our way to complement the efforts of those Arab states that were involved in formulating the Arab Peace Initiative as a very constructive start. And obviously King Abdullah has taken great steps to ensure that that sustains itself, in terms of Arab support, even while we have seen a breakdown in negotiations. And that's a significant achievement for which King Abdullah and others deserve credit. So we want to continue to encourage a commitment on the part of the Arab states to the peace process.

I have assigned a Special Envoy, George Mitchell, who is, you know, I think as good of a negotiator as there is, and somebody who through assiduous work was able to accomplish or help achieve peace in Northern Ireland. We want that same perseverance and sustained effort on this issue, and we're going to be actively engaged.

We have obviously seen the Israeli government just form recently. Prime Minster Netanyahu will be visiting the United States. I expect to have meetings with him. I've had discussions with Palestinian counterparts as well as other Arab states around this issue.

My hope would be that over the next several months, that you start seeing gestures of good faith on all sides. I don't want to get into the details of what those gestures might be, but I think that the parties in the region probably have a pretty good recognition of what intermediate steps could be taken as confidence-building measures. And we will be doing everything we can to encourage those confidence-building measures to take place.

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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.

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END
11:44 A.M. EDT



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