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September 24, 2021

Obama issues stern challenge on Mideast peace

NEW YORK – An impatient U.S. President Barack Obama scolded Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday for not doing more to unblock the peace process and urged them to relaunch negotiations soon.

“It is past time to talk about starting negotiations. It is time to move forward,” Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met for the first time since Netanyahu took office in March.

Abbas, in a statement, repeated Palestinian insistence that Israel halt settlement building in the occupied territories including East Jerusalem, which Netanyahu’s government has resisted. Obama set Middle East peace as a top priority at the start of his presidency in January, in contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush, who was criticized internationally for neglecting the conflict. The summit yielded no immediate signs of a breakthrough. It was Obama’s most direct intervention into a six-decade conflict that has long defied U.S. diplomatic efforts.

But in a sign that pressure from Obama may yet produce progress, Netanyahu told reporters after the talks that there had been “general agreement that the peace process should resume as soon as possible with no preconditions.”

It was unclear how and when that might happen. Netanyahu has resisted U.S. pressure to freeze all Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank, a key Palestinian demand. On Tuesday, he told U.S. ABC television he could commit to stopping new settlements, but not to preventing the growth of those already established. “People have to live. You can’t freeze life,” he said, repeating a maxim he has used before.

Obama was set yesterday to make his United Nations debut calling on world leaders to shoulder more responsibility in confronting global challenges. Obama was to use his maiden speech to the U.N. General Assembly to highlight the new tone he has brought to U.S. foreign policy, stressing cooperation and consultation over the unilateralism of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Despite the change in tone, Obama has few tangible foreign policy achievements to show for his first eight months in office.

As he wrestles with a number of thorny diplomatic issues, Obama insisted that other countries live up to their obligations. “This cannot be solely America’s endeavor,” Obama was to say, according to advance excerpts of his address.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe were among the leaders due to address the gathering.

FM Diaconescu: Climate change affects us all

Romania’s Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu said on Tuesday during the UN summit on climate change that this issue affects everybody’s lives and underlined the importance of promoting policies that can lower environment risks. “Climate change affects the daily lives of all of us, in the smallest detail, and has an impact on out future and our children, an impact we can no longer ignore: pollution, floods, desertification, drought, tornadoes that ruin crops, houses, goods, roads, islands and territories that disappear under water, generating migration, poverty and suffering. We cannot have prosperity and development if we don’t act together now,” Diaconescu told the UN assembly, quoted by a press release from the Foreign Ministry.

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