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UN resolutions can't bring peace to Middle East: Obama

22 September, 2011

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UNITED NATIONS: US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that peace in the Middle East would not come through statements and resolutions at the UN, adding that the US and its coalition partners have begun a transition in war-torn Afghanistan, drawing down their troops between now and 2014 and turning over responsibility to the Afghan government.

"The tide of war is receding," the president said in a wide-ranging address at the start of high-level debate in the UN General Assembly.

Obama told the 193-member assembly that there could be no short cut to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as he sought to head off a looming diplomatic crisis for the Middle East and US policy there. "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN, if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now," the president said. "Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians ënot usí who must reach an agreement on the issues that divide them."

On the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US leader said, "I took office at a time of two wars for the United States. Moreover, the violent extremists who drew us into war in the first place, Osama bin Laden, and his al Qaeda organisation remained at large. Today, we have set a new direction. At the end of this year, America's military operation in Iraq will be over. We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq, for its government and security forces, for its people and their aspirations."

Obama further said: "As we end the war in Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have begun a transition in Afghanistan. Between now and 2014, an increasingly capable Afghan government and security forces will step forward to take responsibility for the future of their country. As they do, we are drawing down our own forces, while building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people.

"So let there be no doubt: the tide of war is receding. When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline. This is critical to the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home.

"Moreover, we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength. Ten years ago, there was an open wound of twisted steel and broken hearts in this city. Today, as a new tower rising at Ground Zero symbolises New Yorkís renewal, al-Qaeda is under more pressure than ever before. Its leadership has been degraded. And Osama bin Laden, a man who murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries, will never endanger the peace of the world again."

On the Palestinian question, Obama stopped short of directly calling on the Palestinians to drop their plan to seek statehood recognition from the UN Security Council.

Conspicuous by his absence in the assembly hall was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu, who flew into New York on Tuesday, indicating a rift with the United States.

Meanwhile, US officials were working furiously behind the scenes to persuade the Palestinians. With the limits of US influence on the moribund peace process never more clear, Obama had no new demands for the Israelis, either, beyond saying that both sides deserved their own state and security.

"Peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over, and our votes have been counted," Obama said. "That is the path to a Palestinian state."

The push by the Palestinians threatens to isolate Israel even further, and divide the US from allies in the Arab world who support the statehood resolution.


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