US President Barack Obama on Wednesday rejected Palestinian plans to seek UN blessing for statehood and urged a return to peace talks with Israel as he tried to head off a looming diplomatic disaster.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Obama — whose earlier peace efforts accomplished little — insisted West Asia peace “will not come through statements and resolutions” at the world body and put the onus on the two sides to break a yearlong impasse.
“There is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work,” Obama told an annual gathering of world leaders.
Grappling with economic woes and low poll numbers at home and growing doubts about his leadership abroad, Obama is wading into West Asia diplomacy at a critical juncture for his presidency and America’s credibility around the globe.
Obama attempted to strike a delicate balance as he took the UN podium. He sought to reassure Palestinians he was not abandoning his pledge to help them achieve eventual statehood while also placating any Israeli concerns about Washington’s commitment to their security.
The Obama administration says that only direct peace talks can lead to peace with Palestine, who in turn say almost two decades of fruitless negotiation has left them no choice but to turn to the world body.
Obama followed his speech with a round of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who echoed the president’s assertion that renewed negotiations were the only path to a peace deal.