Obama: Difference between terror groups, Islam, Peace Talks Should Resume
US President made his first formal interview as president with the Dubai based Al-Arabiya cable TV network. Obama saw that it is time for the Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiation table, after the departure of his new envoy to the Middle East . In his first formal interview as president, aired on Al-Arabiya Channel, Tuesday Jan, 27th, 2009, Obama confirmed that he will honour the premises he gave during the election campaign towards the Muslim world, of achieving a US troop pullout, exerting efforts in making peace in the Middle East, and deliver a speech directed to Muslims from a big Muslim capital to translate the policy of " extending hands of friendship " to the Muslim world, and strengthening the relations that the United States is forging with the Muslim world.
He also saw that the United States is ready to launch a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interests with the Muslim world. He indicated that "What we will offer to the Muslim world is a hand of friendship" after tensions caused by the war on Iraq and policies of predecessor George Bush.
Obama focused on reaching out to Muslims, reminding that he lived in a family that includes Muslims, adding that he lived in the biggest Muslim state, Indonesia , and he is therefore convinced that, regardless of the faith, people still have dreams and ambitions which they seek to accomplish. He pointed out that children in the Muslim world should have a better culture.
"And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect", he said, adding that " But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there"s no reason why we can"t restore that. And that I think is going to be an important task".
Regarding the war on terror, the US President confirmed that" ….the language we use matters. And what we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations – whether Muslim or any other faith in the past – that will use faith as a justification for violence. We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith"s name.
And he confirmed that his administration will "be very clear in distinguishing between organizations like al Qaeda – that espouse violence, espouse terror and act on it – and people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions, or may have a particular viewpoint in terms of how their countries should develop. We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful.
Obama also confirmed that the war on terrorism will continue but under US law and described latest statements of Al-Qaeda leaders as "nervous".
Regarding the peace in the Middle East, the US President pointed that he sent his envoy George Mitchell to the region with instructions of starting with listening " because all too often the United States starts by dictating - in the past on some of these issues - and we don"t always know all the factors that are involved. So let"s listen. He"s going to be speaking to all the major parties involved, and he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response", Obama said.
"Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what"s best for them. They"re going to have to make some decisions", he said adding that "it"s time to return to the negotiating table" acknowledging that "it"s going to be difficult, it"s going to take time" excluding that it will be resolved in a few months.
He said also that " And I will continue to believe that Israel "s security is paramount. But I also believe that there are Israelis who recognize that it is important to achieve peace".
"Sending George Mitchell to the Middle East is fulfilling my campaign promise that we"re not going to wait until the end of my administration to deal with Palestinian and Israeli peace, we"re going to start now", said the US president adding that " But if we start the steady progress on these issues, I"m absolutely confident that the United States – working in tandem with the European Union, with Russia, with all the Arab states in the region - I"m absolutely certain that we can make significant progress".
Obama also pointed to his last week"s decision of closing Guantanamo prison in a year.
Extending hands to Iran
On the Iranian issue, Obama confirmed again that he plans to start direct talks with Iran , and extend his hands to the Islamic regime, in case Tehran is " willing to unclench their fist".
"But I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran , to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress. And we will, over the next several months, be laying out our general framework and approach. And as I said during my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us ".
"I said during the campaign that it is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of U.S. power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran ."
The United States has no diplomatic ties with Iran since 1980. Former president George Bush se as a condition for opening a dialogue with Tehran that Iranian sensitive nuclear activities be suspended.
Video of the interview is available here.
Obama’s First TV Interview as President
Video - Al-Arabiya TV Exclusive - Posted January 27, 2009
Obama, in his first interview with Arab television since becoming president, told al-Arabiya television his administration would adopt a more comprehensive approach in its relations with the Muslim world.
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... the comment section is long and resembles a comment section, but still interesting.