Obama: World must rally behind Middle East

September 23, 2010 12:00 am

, UNITED NATIONS, Sep 23 – US President Barack Obama  on Thursday appealed for global support for his efforts to end the Middle East peace deadlock warning that "more blood will be shed" if it fails.

Obama told the opening day of the UN General Assembly that there was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a Palestinian state if key nations in the region and world powers throw their weight behind his new efforts.

"If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel," Obama told world leaders.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have held two rounds of renewed talks, with US help, in the past month. But Abbas has threatened to walk out if Israel does not extend a moratorium on building new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Obama acknowledged that that many observers are "pessimistic" about the talks and warned that radical elements on both sides will try to disrupt the process with "bitter words and with bombs."

"But consider the alternative. If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state."

"Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to co-existence."

He warned that if the talks collapse, hopes of peace may founder for a generation.

"The hard realities of demography will take hold. More blood will be shed. This Holy Land will remain a symbol of our differences, instead of our common humanity," Obama said.

In a plea to Arab nations, Obama said there has to be political and financial help for the Palestinian authority, but pointedly declared: "Those who long to see an independent Palestine rise must stop trying to tear Israel down."

Obama was late arriving at the United Nations and missed his scheduled time to speak. The audience included Abbas. The Israeli representation was not present because of a religious holiday in Israel.

The US president also warned Iran over its nuclear drive which has led to four rounds of UN sanctions.

"The door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment, and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program," he said.

Iran\’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was also to speak to the assembly on Thursday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said there was "encouraging movement toward a comprehensive peace" in the Middle East, in his speech to open the assembly.

"I strongly discourage either side from any action that would hold back progress."

Ban also called for greater collective efforts to overcome crises, ranging from the Middle East to the financial crisis and climate change.

"Social inequalities are growing — among nations and within. Everywhere, people live in fear of losing jobs and incomes. Too many are caught in conflict, women and children bearing the brunt."

The UN chief said the world was looking for a "moral compass."

"At the UN, we find the proper path in community — global common cause, mutual responsibility for a destiny we share."

At a time when the Group of 20 nations and other regional institutions are becoming more powerful, Ban said that "The United Nations remains the indispensable global institution for the 21st-century."

He said it could provide "a collective stand, principled and pragmatic, against forces that would divide us."

Ban highlighted many of the diplomatic challenges likely to confront the United Nations in coming months, particularly Sudan.

"During the coming year, the UN will be critical to keeping a larger peace as north and south Sudan decide their future." He will chair a meeting on Sudan on Friday with Obama and many African leaders present.

The UN leader also put the spotlight on the deadlock in climate change negotiations ahead of a new international conference in Cancun, Mexico in December.

"Clearly, the road toward a comprehensive, binding agreement — in Cancun and beyond — will not be easy."

He said there had to be agreement in the next year on financing the mitigation of the warming planet, technology transfer and on preventing deforestation.


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