Obama hopeful of Middle East peace progress this year

President Barack Obama expressed hope on Friday of making serious progress this year in Middle East peacemaking, and said Israelis and Palestinians had to “get serious” about making tough compromises.

Obama repeated his call on Israel to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank but also said Palestinians would have to improve security and root out corruption.

If these and other issues were not solved, the Israelis would have “trouble moving forward”, he said.

“The Palestinians have to get serious about creating the security environment that is required for Israel to feel confident. Israelis are going to have to take some difficult steps,” he said.

Obama, who sees Israeli-Palestinian progress as crucial to repairing the tarnished US image in the Muslim world, was speaking a day after delivering an address in Cairo in which he offered Muslims a “new beginning” with the United States.

“I am confident that if we stick with it ... we can make some serious progress this year,” Obama told a news conference in Dresden with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the third leg of a four-nation trip to the Middle East and Europe.

“The moment is now for us to act on what we all know to be the truth, which is that each side is going to have to make some difficult compromises,” Obama said.

Obama was in Germany on the third stop of his trip, which has already taken him to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
On Saturday, he will attend commemorations in France marking the 65th anniversary of the World War II D-Day landings.

Obama will pay homage to the victims of World War II and the Holocaust, in which six million Jews died, when he tours the Buchenwald concentration camp with Merkel.

Obama’s great uncle helped liberate a satellite camp of Buchenwald, which was created by the Nazis near Weimar. An estimated 56 000 people were killed in Buchenwald.—Reuters

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