Arabs hail Obama overture to Muslims
“US President Barack Obama’s efforts in Turkey to repair the relationship between Washington and Muslims won praise in the Arab world on Tuesday, more than seven years after the 9/11 attacks.
“This is a first important step towards lessening tensions that have existed in recent years between the Muslim world on the one side and the United States and the West on the other,” Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said.
He said Obama’s initiative had put the two sides “on the path towards rebuilding bridges of trust between the US and the world’s more than one billion Muslims.”
In a speech to the Turkish parliament on Monday, Obama said the United States “is not and never will be at war with Islam.”
He also warned “you cannot put out fire with flames,” arguing that brute force alone could not defeat extremism, in implicit criticism of his predecessor George W. Bush who went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama said US ties with the Muslim world could not be simply defined by opposition to terrorism, decades into a US struggle with extremism that was sharpened by the September 11 attacks in 2001.
“We appreciate the new more advanced position of the US towards the Muslim world,” Abul Gheit told journalists in Cairo, while urging action to also advance the Middle East peace process.
“The Arab-Israeli conflict and the continuation of Israel’s occupation of Arab lands constitutes a main cause of tension in the world which feeds extremist and terrorist forces,” he warned.
The Palestinian Authority and Israel on Monday both welcomed Obama’s renewed support for the stalled roadmap plan based on a two-state solution, although with less enthusiasm on the Israeli side.
What Obama said in Ankara was “important. What remains to be seen is what will be the nature of the Israeli-US relationship to implement this solution,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper.
Rajeh Khoury wrote in An-Nahar, another Beirut daily, that the summit between Obama and Turkish President Abdullah Gul had aimed to draw up “a roadmap for relations between the West and Islam.”
The US leader’s visit to Turkey was “very important because it seeks to define the future of relations with Muslims.”
Pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat said “the American president was seeking during his first trip to a Muslim country to reconstruct his relationship with Muslims.”
Yussuf al-Kuwailit, a senior editor of the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, paid tribute to Obama as “the modest leader.”
“Obama is a new American phenomenon, who reflects the true picture of America, trying to settle its differences with the world through participation and cooperation, without arrogance and talk of power,” he wrote.
Kuwailit said Obama’s bowing to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah at the G20 summit last week “showed extreme modesty… without undermining his position as the president of the biggest world power.”