Obama, Mubarak Discuss Mideast Peace
Updated 2:34 p.m.
By Anne E. Kornblut
Eager to help the Middle East "move away from a status quo" that he said is not working for either side, President Obama described his meetings with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday as fruitful and expressed confidence that a breakthrough in the stalled peace process is on the horizon.
"There has been movement in the right direction," Obama said. "If all sides are willing to move off of the rut that we're in currently, then I think there is an extraordinary opportunity to make real progress. But we're not there yet."
Mubarak, in a joint press availability with Obama, conveyed his willingness to help jumpstart the process. "We are trying and working on this goal, to bring the two parties to sit together and to get something from the Israeli party and to get something from the Palestinian party. If we, perhaps, can get them to sit together, we will help," he said.
The meeting between Mubarak and Obama, their third in three months, marked a significant departure from the previous administration - when Mubarak and former President George W. Bush parted ways over human rights and U.S. policy in the Middle East. The events on Tuesday reaffirmed that the earlier chill has thawed. But it was unclear how much progress the two will make on their top priority: reviving the Middle East peace process.
Obama has sought to persuade Arab nations to make concessions to Israel to move the process forward, with little success. Mubarak, in an interview published Monday, said it is up to Israel to take the next step. And he said he told Obama in June, at the time of his Cairo address to the Muslim world, that Israel must stop the expansion of its settlements.
"Some Arab countries that exchanged representatives and trade offices might think of reopening these offices if Israel committed itself to stop settlement expansion and to resume final status peace negotiations," Mubarak said in an interview with the state-controlled newspaper. Egypt is one of two Arab countries that have peace agreements with Israel; the other is Jordan.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, asked how Obama planned to break the apparent deadlock on Middle East talks, said the president's intention all along has been to stay engaged in a consistent way. "If we look back at progress that has been made, it's generally been with the involvement of the United States," Gibbs said.
Mubarak, who met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday, had a one-on-one session with Obama in the Oval Office, then an expanded session involving other participants, before a working lunch in the Cabinet Room.
Posted at 11:13 AM ET on Aug 18, 2009
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