CAIRO (AFP) — US President Barack Obama on Thursday vowed to forge a “new beginning” for Islam and America in a landmark speech to the world’s Muslims, evoking a vision of peace after a smouldering cycle of “suspicion and discord.”
In what may be a defining moment of his presidency, Obama laid out a new blueprint for US Middle East policy, vowing to end mistrust, forge a state for Palestinians and defuse a nuclear showdown with Iran.
“So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace,” said Obama, who was greeted with a standing ovation as he stepped up to the podium at Cairo University.
Obama’s long-awaited speech fulfilled a campaign promise and came after he held talks in Saudi Arabia Wednesday with King Abdullah and Thursday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak aimed at reviving Middle East peace moves.
In the university’s imposing domed Great Hall, Obama said the US bond with Israel, the source of much Arab distrust of the United States, was unbreakable, and rejected “ignorant” rants by those who deny the Nazi Holocaust.
But, breaking from policies of his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama also rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to halt West Bank settlement expansion and reiterated his backing for a two-state solution.
“I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” Obama said in a speech targeting the globe’s 1.5 billion Muslims on television, the Internet and on social networking sites.
“This cycle of suspicion and discord must end,” said Obama vowing to fight “negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
“But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America,” he said, and touched on contentious regional like democracy and women’s rights.
Quoting the region’s three holy books, the Koran, the Torah and the Bible, he evoked a future of “mutual interest and mutual respect, examing all sources of tension between America and the Muslim world.
AFP has more details here.
A complete transcript of Obama’s prepared remarks is available here.
This video is from ABC’s Good Morning America, broadcast June 4, 2009.