Barack Obama photo

Remarks Prior to a Meeting With President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in New York City

September 24, 2013

President Obama. I want to thank President Abbas for this opportunity to speak to him once again. The last time that we had an extensive discussion was in Ramallah during my visit to both Israel and the West Bank. And at that time, I said to both sides that I remain deeply committed and the United States remains deeply committed to bringing about a just and lasting peace to a conflict that has been going on too long.

And I want to say that President Abbas, I think, has consistently rejected violence, has recognized the need for peace, and I'm grateful to him for his efforts.

The position of the United States has been clear. The border of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967's lines, with mutually agreed-to swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states, with robust security provisions so that Israel retains the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threats.

And I am very pleased that President Abbas has been willing to enter into a negotiation. Sitting directly at the table, we've seen Palestinian and Israeli representatives discuss some of the most difficult issues that have been roadblocks to peace for too long.

None of us are under any illusion that this would be easy. As I said in my speech this morning, it has already entailed significant political risk by President Abbas, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu. But I think the reason that they've been willing to take those risks is, they realize this is the best way—the only way—for us to achieve what should be our goal: two states living side by side in peace and security. It's right for Palestinian children. It's right for Israeli children.

And having leaders who are willing to look out into the future and take risks on behalf of that better history is something that the United States intends to support as strongly as possible. And I'm urging all my counterparts, heads of state here at the United Nations, to support this effort as well.

Last point I would make: The Palestinian Authority has been a critical mechanism to improve governance and increase transparency in the West Bank. Obviously, the Palestinian Authority operates under significant constraints, including resource constraints. But we think it's very important that we continue to support efforts that have been made by the Authority, for example, to improve internal security and professionalize security forces inside the Authority. And that, I think, lays also an important foundation for the kind of economic development and governance that will be critical for an independent Palestinian state.

So, Mr. President, thank you for taking the time to be with me here today. And I look forward to our discussions.

President Abbas. Thank you very much, Mr. President, for hosting us here and agreeing to meet with us to discuss very critical issues related to the peace process in the Middle East.

And we still—and our people still—remember very proudly the historical visit that you paid to the Palestinian Territories, after which we launched peace negotiations with your support and help, and also with the involvement of Mr. Kerry.

And we appreciate all the support that the U.S. is extending to the Palestinian people to build the state—the institutions of the future Palestinian state, which, hopefully, will materialize very soon with your support and continued assistance.

And as we have said in the past—and we can continue to reiterate—that we are fully committed to the peace process so that we can reach a final settlement that ultimately will lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state that would live side by side in peace and security with Israel.

And as you have indicated, Mr. President, we have no illusions that peace will be easy or simple. And we have to overcome several difficulties, but we realize that peace in the Middle East is not just important for the Palestinians and the Israelis, it's important for the entire region and the world.

We appreciate your support for the continuation of the negotiations, and we will exert every effort possible to make sure that they will succeed and to take advantage of this historical opportunity. We understand there would be difficulties, but we will do our utmost best to overcome them.

President Obama. Thank you, my friend. Thank you, everybody.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:06 p.m. in the Security Council Consultation Room at United Nations Headquarters. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. President Abbas referred to Secretary of State John F. Kerry. President Abbas spoke in Arabic, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Barack Obama, Remarks Prior to a Meeting With President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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