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May 19th, 2011
06:45 PM ET

Obama announces 'new chapter' in U.S. Mideast diplomacy

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.

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Angie

    Pres. Obama has certainly made it clear where he stands with regard to Israel. How in the world can he expect Israel to go back to the 1967 borders? This is a betrayel to Israel. This is really shameful. This administration and their actions are beyond the pale. They lie and are the worst hate and fear mongers I have ever heard in over 60 years of my life. I used to be for the democratic party, but never again because they have finally shown their true colors. I am just flabbergasted!

    May 19, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  2. Moses

    But we'll get the same old chapter with years more of the Patriots Act at home. What a phony, what a disappointment.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  3. 1937 Peel Commission Borders

    The only acceptable Palestinian nation will be based on the 1937 William Peel Commission map borders.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:31 pm |