President Barack Obama outlined his approach to pressing issues in the Middle East in a late Monday television interview, pledging that he would reach out to Muslims.
The President held the television interview in Washington with Dubai-based Arabic channel al-Arabiya.
He commented on his initial moves to send special Middle East envoy George Mitchell, a former senator who has previously helped to successfully negotiate for peace among Protestants and Catholics in North Ireland.
Sending George Mitchell to the Middle East is fulfilling my campaign promise that we're not going to wait until the end of my administration to deal with Palestinian and Israeli peace. We're going to start now , Obama said, according to a released White House transcript. We are going to follow through on many of my commitments to do a more effective job of reaching out, listening, as well as speaking to the Muslim world.
Obama also said that It's possible for us to see a Palestinian state, but wouldn't specify a specific state.
We cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what is best for them, he added.
But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that instead, it's time to return to the negotiating table.
However he noted that the U.S. should view the Palestinian-Israeli conflict within a wider context.
It is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what's happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said.
He also spoke about his plans for dealing with Iran.
It is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but (also) where there are potential avenues for progress, Obama said.
If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.
In the interview, he also noted he had Muslim extended family members and had lived in Indonesia, the nation with most Muslims in the world.
My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect, he said.
My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect, he said.
He said such action would eventually help win the struggle against terrorism.
I think the Muslim world has recognized that that path is leading no place except more death and destruction, he said.