CAIRO: In an exclusive interview with Dubai-based television network Al-Arabiya, US President Barack Obama discussed his new strategy for achieving peace in the Middle East.
It was Obama’s first formal television interview as president.
During his talk with host Hisham Melhem, Obama reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict early in his presidency.
Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell arrived in Cairo Tuesday, kicking off a regional tour.
“Sending George Mitchell to the Middle East is fulfilling my campaign promise that we’re not going to wait until the end of my administration to deal with Palestinian and Israeli peace; we’re going to start now.
In the interview, President Obama established that the creation of a Palestinian state was a possibility but declined to mention when this was possible.
“I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state . that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life.
However, like many past American presidents, President Obama also reasserted America’s position as a staunch supporter of Israel’s “security interests. “I will continue to believe that Israel’s security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace.
Obama said that his new approach will not be limited to a specific conflict, but will address the Middle East from a regional perspective.
“I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Obama also mentioned that his close interaction with Muslim members of his family and his upbringing in a Muslim country, Indonesia, offers him an advantage of being a broker of relations with the Muslim world. He reiterated his plans to address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital, but the mystery city is yet to be announced.
“My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy, he said.
Though Obama tried to keep the mood optimistic, he was careful not to raise viewers’ expectations too high. He said that peace “is not going to be easy, and that’s why we’ve got George Mitchell going there. This is somebody with extraordinary patience as well as extraordinary skill, and that’s what’s going to be necessary.