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Obama, at UN, urges nations to support Middle East peace drive

In his second address as president to the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, Obama urges supporters of Palestinians to back their pledges with deeds, and asks Arab states to normalize ties with Israel.

By Staff writer / September 23, 2010

President Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters on Sept. 23.

Jason DeCrow/AP

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United Nations, N.Y.

President Obama on Thursday implored the world not to sit on the sidelines of the relaunched Israeli-Palestinian negotiations but to actively support two parties that he said could, with courage, deliver an independent Palestine within a year.

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In his second address as president to the annual September opening of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Obama in particular upbraided the world’s many declared friends of the Palestinian people, whom he said are not doing enough to support a successful outcome in the talks.

“Many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians. But these pledges must now be supported by deeds,” Obama said, calling on Arab states in particular to give robust support to the Palestinian leadership and to “seize this opportunity” by normalizing relations with Israel as promised in the Arab Peace Initiative.

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Obama’s reception by the 192-member UN was less enthusiastic than last year, when the world body openly demonstrated its relief at the departure of George W. Bush and its approval of the first American president of color. But with his novelty worn off, Obama was interrupted by applause only twice: when he declared an independent Palestine an achievement within reach, and when he called for a redoubled effort “to protect the rights of women around the world.”

Indeed Obama – who encountered stiff criticism in the first year of his administration for what was often perceived as halting support for human rights in countries ranging from Iran and Burma to China – dedicated the second half of his speech to what he said was the UN’s original duty of protecting and promoting the inalienable rights of every human being.

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