WASHINGTON (AP) -– Forcefully stepping into an explosive Middle East debate, President Barack Obama on Thursday endorsed a key Palestinian demand for the borders of its future state and prodded Israel to accept that it can never have a truly peaceful nation based on "permanent occupation."
Obama's urging that a Palestinian state be based on 1967 borders — before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — was a significant shift in the U.S. approach and seemed certain to anger Israel.
Israel has said an endorsement of the 1967 borders would prejudge negotiations, and Obama took pains to show respect for Israel's views ahead of his meetings Friday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The comments came in Obama's most comprehensive response to date to the uprisings sweeping the Arab world. Speaking at the State Department, he called for the first time for the leader of Syria to embrace democracy or move aside, though without specifically demanding his ouster.
As he addressed audiences abroad and at home, Obama sought to leave no doubt that the U.S. stands behind the protesters who have swelled from nation to nation across the Middle East and North Africa, while also trying to convince American viewers that U.S. involvement in unstable countries halfway around the world is in their interest, too.
Obama said the United States has a historic opportunity and the responsibility to support the rights of people clamoring for freedoms, and he called for "a new chapter in American diplomacy."
"We know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith," the president said.
He hailed the killing of al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and declared that bin Laden's vision of destruction was fading even before U.S. forces shot him dead.
Obama said the "shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region."
The president noted that two leaders had stepped down — referring to Egypt and Tunisia — and said that "more may follow." He quoted civilian protesters who have pushed for change in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen but noted that among those nations, only Egypt has seen the departure of a long-ruling autocratic leader.
Obama said that while there will be setbacks accompanying progress in political transitions, the movements present a valuable opportunity for the U.S. to show which side it is on. "We have a chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of a dictator," he said, referring to the fruit vendor who killed himself in despair and sparked a chain of events that unleashed uprisings around the Arab world.
On the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the president cautioned that the recent power-sharing agreement between the mainstream Palestinian faction led by Mahmoud Abbas and the radical Hamas movement that rules Gaza "raises profound and legitimate" security questions for Israel. Netanyahu has refused to deal with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas.
"How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?" Obama asked. "In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question."
Obama also rejected a push by the Palestinians for U.N. recognition of a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem this fall. "Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state," Obama said.
The president ignored many of the most divisive issues separating the two sides. He did not speak about the status of Jerusalem or the fate of Palestinian refugees. And, he did not discuss a way to resolve Israel's concerns about a Hamas role in a unified Palestinian government, telling the Palestinians that they would have to address the matter themselves.
On Syria, Obama said President Bashar Assad must lead his country to democracy or "get out of the way," his most direct warning to the leader of a nation embroiled in violence. Obama said the Syrian government "has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens." He praised the Syrian people for their courage in standing up to repression in a bloody crackdown that has killed hundreds.
Obama said that while each country in the region is unique, there are shared values in the push for political change that will define the U.S. approach.
"Our message is simple: If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States," he said.
The speech was in some ways notable for what Obama did not mention.
While critical of autocracy throughout the Mideast, he failed to mention at the region's largest, richest and arguably most repressive nation, U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. Nor did he discuss Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally that has a peace deal with Israel. Also left out was the United Arab Emirates, the wealthy, pro-American collection of mini-states on the Persian Gulf. And he gave little attention to Iran, where U.S. attempts at outreach have gone nowhere.
Obama announced economic incentives aimed at steering a region roiling in violence toward democratic change that lasts.
Among the elements of his approach:
• The canceling of roughly $1 billion in debt for Egypt. The intention is that money freed from that debt obligation would be swapped toward investments in priority sectors of the Egyptian economy, likely to focus on entrepreneurship and employment for younger people. Unemployment rates are soaring in Egypt and across the region.
• The guaranteeing of up to $1 billion in borrowing for Egypt through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a U.S. government institution that mobilizes private capital.
• Promises by the U.S. to launch a new trade partnership in the Middle East and North Africa and to prod world financial institutions to help Egypt and Tunisia.
오바마 "이-팔, 3차 중동전 이전 국경 근거해야"
중동정책 연설..기존 `재협상' 입장 선회
"튀니지.이집트 등 대규모 경제지원으로 민주화 촉진"
버락 오바마 대통령은 19일 "이스라엘과 새로운 팔레스타인 국가의 국경선은 1967년 중동전쟁 이전의 경계에 근거해야 한다"고 말했다.
오바마 대통령은 이날 국무부 청사에서 가진 중동정책 연설을 통해 이같이 밝힌 뒤 "양측은 서로 영토를 양보함으로써 안정적이고 명확한 국경선을 설정할 수 있을 것"이라고 강조했다.
이는 지금까지 중동전쟁 이전의 국경을 주장해온 팔레스타인의 주장에 대해 이스라엘 측과의 재협상이 필요하다고 지적해온 미국 정부의 기존 입장에서 선회한 것으로, 이스라엘 측의 반발이 예상된다.
오바마 대통령은 또 최근 중동과 북아프리카의 민주화 시위에 언급, "미국이 정책을 변경하지 않을 경우 아랍권과의 깊은 균열에 직면하게 될 것"이라며 중동정책의 일대 변화를 예고했다.
그는 이와 관련, 바샤르 알-아사드 시리아 대통령에 대해서는 "정치권력의 이양을 주도해야 한다"면서 "그렇지 않을 경우 물러나야 한다"고 경고했다.
또 바레인 정부와 반정부 세력에 대해 "모든 바레인 국민의 미래를 위해 실질적인 대화에 나서야 한다"고 촉구했으며, 알리 압둘라 살레 예멘 대통령에 대해서는 "퇴진함으로써 정정불안을 종식해야 한다"고 말했다.
이어 오바마 대통령은 최근 민주화 시위로 지도자가 물러난 튀니지와 이집트에 대한 대규모 경제지원 방침을 밝혔다.
그는 이와 관련, ▲차기 주요 8개국(G-8) 정상회의에서 양국의 경제 안정 및 현대화 논의 ▲이집트에 대한 10억달러 규모의 부채탕감 ▲이집트의 일자리창출 및 인프라 건설을 위한 10억달러 규모의 지급보증 ▲이집트와 튀니지 등 중동.북아프리카 민간경제 활성화를 위한 20억달러 규모의 투자 ▲중동.북아프리카 지역의 무역투자파트너십계획(TIPI) 출범 등을 제시했다.
그는 "중동과 북아프리카 국가들은 오래전에 독립을 획득했으나 많은 나라의 경우 국민은 그렇지 못했다"면서 "권력이 일부 세력의 손에 있었을 뿐 아니라 정직한 사법부, 자유로운 언론, 신뢰받는 정당, 공정한 선거도 없었다"고 지적했다.
오바마 대통령은 이밖에 최근 미군 특수부대가 사살한 알-카에다 지도자 오사마 빈 라덴에 대해 "순교자가 아니라 증오의 메시지를 전하는 대량학살자"라면서 "그의 죽음 이전부터 알-카에다는 정당성을 상실했다"고 주장했다. (연합뉴스)