Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Thursday placed the United States squarely on the side of democratic reform in the Middle East and North Africa, declaring in a major policy speech that the wave of change sweeping the region "cannot be denied."
Addressing a global audience, Obama condemned the use of force against Arab Spring protesters by longtime allies and adversaries alike. He also said the eruption of demands for greater opportunity in Arab nations could be used to kick-start stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
At the same time, Obama applied his own pressure by declaring as policy the long-held idea that a future Palestinian state should be based on borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.
In the past, the United States has unofficially supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict based on the borders in place prior to the war 44 years ago in which Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula. Obama became the first president to formally endorse the policy, but he acknowledged the need for modifications through the negotiating process due to conditions on the ground.
Obama also dismissed the notion of al Qaeda-style extremism appealing to future generations of Muslims, asserting that the organization was "losing its struggle for relevance" long before the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2.
The president's speech - the subject of intense speculation in recent days - was a long-promised overview of America's changing Middle East policy in the wake of the Arab Spring that started unfolding in Tunisia last December.
In recent months, Washington has often appeared to struggle to keep up with the pace of events not only in Tunisia, but also in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere.
Administration officials have also wrestled with an Arab suspicion of U.S. motives fueled by decades of American support for the region's autocratic regimes.FULL STORY
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