Obama “Encouraged” On Some Progress in the West Bank

Aug 18, 2009 2:34pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports: Sitting in the oval office with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, President Obama said he was “encouraged” by what he’s seeing happening on the ground in the West Bank, as indication that there is “movement in the right direction.” Mr. Obama was asked directly about the reports that Israel had stopped granting permission for new settlements in the West Bank. “There has been movement in the right direction,” Obama responded, “And my hope is that we are going to see not just movement from the Israelis, but also from the Palestinians around issues of incitement and security, from Arab states that show their willingness to engage Israel.” The President offered up local reports that demonstrate movement in the right direction: check points have been removed in some situations, the security forces of the Palestinian Authority have been able to deal with the security situation on the West Bank “in a way that has inspired, not just confidence among the Israeli people, but also among the Palestinian people,” and increased economic activity on the West bank. “This is creating a climate in which it is possible for us to see some positive steps and, hopefully, negotiate towards a final resolution of these long-standing issues.” Obama said that if all sides are willing to “move off of the rut” that they’re in, then there’s an “extraordinary opportunity to make real progress.” But, Obama cautioned that ‘we’re not there yet” despite the encouragement of what he’s seeing on the ground, and that Israeli has taken their discussions with the US very seriously. “I do believe that what may have changed — and this is what we have to test — is a growing realization on the part of the Palestinians that Israel is not going anywhere and is a fact, a reality, that has to be dealt with, and a recognition on the part of the Israelis that their long-term security interests require finding an accommodation with the Palestinians and ultimately with their Arab neighbors.” The Egyptian President praised Obama for his efforts in the region, and cautioned Israel over a temporary solution. “I told them, ‘No, forget about the temporary solution and forget about temporary borders,’” Mubarak said of his conversation with Israel, “That’s why I came today, to talk to President Obama and to see that if we move forward on this issue we will give more hope and more confidence to the people about this issue.” The two leaders, in addition discussed the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region, Iran, Iraq, and economic development issues. President Obama did not mention that the two had discussed human right and democracy in the Egypt – but Mubarak brought it up separately, saying that he had assured Obama that reforms were already starting in his country “We discussed the issue of reform inside Egypt, and I told to President Obama very frankly and very friendly that I have entered into the elections based on a platform that included reforms, and therefore we have started to implement some of it, and we still have two more years to implement it.” Today’s Oval Office meeting was the third meeting the two President have shared—the first being in Cairo when President Obama gave his address to the Muslim world, and the second in Italy during the G-20 Summit. Mr. Mubarak praised President Obama’s Cairo speech for removing “all doubts” about the US and the Muslim world – and gave a slight dig to his relationship with the most recent past administration. “Our relations between us and the United States are very good relations and strategic relations,” Mubarak said, “despite some of the hoops that we had with previous administrations, this did not change of the nature of our bilateral relations.” -Sunlen Miller

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