VIDEO - US President Barack Obama
on Wednesday rejected Palestinian plans to seek UN recognition for statehood
and urged a return to peace talks with Israel
as he tried to head off a looming diplomatic disaster.
Addressing world leaders at the opening of the UN General Assembly, Obama said that the Palestinians deserved a state of their own, but that this would only be achieved through negotiations.
"I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN," Obama said, clearly coming out against the Palestinian plan to seek UN recognition.
|Watch Obama address the UN (Video: Reuters, Sami Hamid)|
"Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians -- not us -- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem," he added.
The American president faces the daunting challenge of reasserting Washington's influence in the region by dissuading the Palestinians from going ahead with a push for statehood in the UN Security Council this week in defiance of Israeli objections and a US veto threat.
Obama at the UN on Wednesday (Photo: EPA)
According to Obama, "One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves."
For full coverage of PA's statehood bid click here
"One year later," the American leader added, "despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May. That basis is clear, and well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.
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"I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. So am I. But the question isn’t the goal we seek – the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades," he said.
The American president said, "We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There is no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long."
Speaking about Israel's concerns, Obama said, "America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.
"Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them," he said.
Obama during his address (Photo: AFP)
"Israel," the US leader added, "a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were."
Obama stressed, "These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.
"That truth – that each side has legitimate aspirations – is what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other’s shoes," he said.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas listens to Obama at the UN (Photo: AP)
Speaking about the nuclear threat, Obama said that Iran and North Korea could win greater opportunities by abiding by their nuclear commitments, but risked more pressure if they continue to flout international law.
"There is a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation," Obama said.
Earlier, In the opening speech, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an international effort to end the "impasse" in the Middle East, referring to the decision of the Palestinians to seek full membership at the UN.
Ban pledged that for its part, the United Nations would work "tirelessly" to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
"In the Middle East, we must break the deadlock. The Palestinians deserve a state. Israel needs security. Both want peace," he added.
AFP and Reuters contributed to the report