News / Middle East

Obama, Jordan's King Discuss Mideast Developments

President Barack Obama meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 17, 2011
President Barack Obama meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 17, 2011

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At the White House on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Jordan's King Abdullah discussed the popular uprisings in the Middle East and efforts to move Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts forward.

The talks began a week of intense Middle East-related activity for the president, which will include a major address Thursday on the U.S. approach to the upheaval and political changes in the region, followed by his meeting on Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The president said he and King Abdullah shared views on the "extraordinary changes" in the region, including the situation in Libya and what Obama called "rapid transformation" in places like Egypt and Tunisia.

"We both agreed that it is critical that not only does political reform proceed, but economic reform accompanies those changes there because so much of what is taking place has to do with the aspirations of young people throughout the Arab world, for their ability to determine their own fate, to get an education, to get a job to be able to support a family," said Obama. "And that means that some of the old structures that were inhibiting their ability to progress have to be reworked."

The president said their talks included "reform efforts" taking place in Jordan. He also said the United States welcomes initiatives that will be good for the security and stability of Jordan, and the economic prosperity of the Jordanian people.

Thanking the president for U.S. economic support for Jordan and its reform process, King Abdullah said Jordan will continue to be a strong partner with the United States on all issues in the Middle East. He reiterated his view about the importance of settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I am delighted to be back here, and again to take this opportunity to thank you and your government for the tremendous support that you are showing Jordan economically, and the support of the United States and a lot of our friends internationally, on really being able to push reform in an aggressive manner in our country and again your continued interest and support on the core issue of the Middle East, which is the Israeli-Palestinian peace," said Abdullah.

Mideast peace efforts have been complicated by the issue of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, and a unity accord between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Obama reiterated a view that he and administration officials have stressed in recent months, that an Israeli-Palestinian settlement has become even more important against the background of developments in the region.

"Despite the many changes, or perhaps because of the many changes that are taking place in the region, it is more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table and begin negotiating a process whereby they can create two states that are living side by side in peace and security."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the president's speech on Thursday will be an opportunity for him to assess the historic changes in the Middle East, and to explain to the world how his administration will support these changes and the democratic aspirations of the people in the region.

Carney avoided going into specifics on what Obama will say about the Israel-Palestinian peace process, saying he would leave that for the president on Thursday. He did say, though, that the moment of opportunity the president likely will discuss in his address applies to everyone in the Middle East, including Israelis and Palestinians.

"This is a moment of opportunity, and not just for other countries in the region, but for Israeli and the Palestinians as well," said Carney.  "There is historic change taking place in the region."

Against the backdrop of that historic change, Carney said that President Obama believes it is incumbent upon political leaders in the region to take steps that encourage positive change.

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