Barack Obama is "committed" to achieving peace in the Middle East, a top aide to the US president-elect has said after one of the bloodiest days of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians since the conflict began 60 years ago.
"Obviously, this situation has become even more complicated in the last couple of days and weeks. As Hamas began its shelling, Israel responded. But it's something that he's committed to," David Axelrod told CBS television yesterday.
The massive air offensive launched Saturday by Israel on the Gaza Strip in response to a wave of rockets fired by Palestinian militants has already killed nearly 300 people, placing Middle East peace at the top of foreign policy crises piling up on Obama's agenda.
Obama "is monitoring the situation," Axelrod told NBC in another interview, adding that the Democrat was briefed about the Mideast situation by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by telephone on Saturday.
"But we've said repeatedly through this transition period that there's only one president at a time, and President (George W) Bush speaks for the United States of America until January 20th, and we're going to honor that moving forward."
President George W Bush's efforts to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Annapolis, Maryland in November 2007, after a seven-year hiatus, ultimately failed to produce a hoped-for peace deal by the end of 2008.
"I think (Obama) wants to get a handle on the situation, so that, when he becomes president on January 20th, he has the advantage of all the facts and information leading up to that point," Axelrod said on CBS.