WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama on Thursday said the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla "tragic situation" and called for an investigation "of international standards" into the incident.
Speaking to CNN's Larry King, Obama said, "You've got loss of life that was unnecessary. So we are calling for an effective investigation of everything that happened. I think the Israelis are going to agree to that -- an investigation of international standards -- because they recognize that this can't be good for Israel's long-term security.
"You've got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they've got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel-Gaza border. I've been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people's bedrooms. Israel has a legitimate concern there. On the other hand you've got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future," he said.
"I think what's important right now is that we break out of the current impasse, use this tragedy as an opportunity so that we figure out, how can we meet Israel's security concerns, but at the same time start opening up opportunity for Palestinians, work with all parties concerned -- the Palestinian authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others -- and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we've worked through this tragedy. And bring everybody together to figure out how can we get a two-state solution where the Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace and security."
The American president added that "it's not premature to say to the Israelis and to say to the Palestinians, and to say to all the parties in the region that the status quo is unsustainable. We have been trying to do this piecemeal for decades now. It just doesn't work.
"You've got to have a situation in which the Palestinians have real opportunity and Israel's neighbors recognize Israel's legitimate security concerns and are committed to peace," Obama told King.
The US has called for an investigation into the raid, but has not condemned it officially.
On Wednesday White House spokesman Bill Burton addressed the raid, saying it is most important to President Obama that such incidents do not occur in the future.
At a press briefing on the presidential airplane, Burton emphasized that his country is in constant contact with Israel and that it is committed to the Jewish state's security. However, he stressed that Washington is determined to transfer aid to the civilians in Gaza.
US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell said Thursday that the raid must not undermine indirect negotiations he is mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.
Mitchell, speaking in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, said the incident showed the need for progress in the talks that got under way last month.