Obama seeks support for new Middle East peace push

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The Independent Online

President Barack Obama today called for a fresh international effort to create a Palestinian state as the path to Middle East peace.

It is time "for all of us to redouble our efforts. The moment is now for us to act," he declared.

Mr Obama said: "The United States can't force peace upon the parties." But he said America has "at least created the space, the atmosphere, in which talks can restart."

The president announced he was dispatching special envoy George Mitchell back to the region next week to follow up on his speech in Cairo yesterday in which he called for both Israelis and Palestinians to give ground in the stand-off.

Mr Obama said Israel must live up to commitments it made under the so-called "Road Map" peace outline to stop constructing settlements and the Palestinians must control violence-inciting acts and statements.

Fresh from visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Mr Obama said that while regional powers and the entire international community must help achieve peace, responsibility ultimately falls to Israelis and Palestinians to reach an accord.

"I think the moment is now for us to act on what we all know to be the truth, which is each side is going to have to make some difficult compromises," he said.

He renewed his call for Israel to halt West Bank settlement activity and follow through on such previously made commitments, adding: "I recognise the very difficult politics in Israel of getting that done and I'm very sympathetic to how hard that will be." He also pressed Palestinians anew to stop anti-Israel rhetoric, saying that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "has made progress on this issue, but not enough."

He spoke after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dresden.

Later he toured the Buchenwald concentration camp, where an estimated 56,000 people perished. Thousands were Jews - worked to death, shot or hanged by Nazi guards.

Mr Obama is the first US president to visit Buchenwald, and the stop was personal. A great-uncle helped liberate a nearby satellite camp, Ohrdruf, in early April 1945 just days before other US Army units overran Buchenwald.

Ohrdruf no longer stands. But Buchenwald's main gate, crematorium, hospital and two guard towers have been kept as a memorial.

Accompanying Mr Obama to the site was Elie Wiesel, a 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner, author and Holocaust survivor.