Obama at UN: US open to dialogue with Iran
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Obama at UN: US open to dialogue with Iran

‘We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to pursue peaceful nuclear energy,’ US president says

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US President Barack Obama addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew)
US President Barack Obama addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The United States is willing to engage with Iran if the Islamic Republic’s new government proves willing to make concessions on its nuclear program, US President Barack Obama told world leaders assembled in New York for the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

“The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama said.

Obama urged the Iranian government to halt uranium enrichment and to instead work together with the US in order to achieve a long-lasting agreement that would benefit both countries.

“We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to pursue peaceful nuclear energy,” Obama emphasized.

The US president added that although the US prefers to resolve the Iranian issue peacefully, it is determined to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and would use any means necessary in order to do so. Resolving Iran’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Obama said, would help bring peace and stability to the region.

The US president said he would be tasking Secretary of State John Kerry with pursuing diplomacy with Tehran. “We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course. Given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government, in close coordination with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China… While the status quo will only deepen Iran’s isolation, Iran’s genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and the world, and will help the Iranian people meet their extraordinary potential – in commerce and culture; in science and education.

Earlier in his speech, Obama urged UN Security Council members to approve a resolution which would allow for military action against Syria should Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime decline to turn over its chemical weapons arsenal in its entirety to the international community, as agreed upon in a joint US-Russian plan. Failure to reach such a resolution, Obama said, would prove the UN is incapable to enforcing its authority.

It would be “an insult to human reason and the legitimacy” of the UN if the world body did not acknowledge that the Assad regime had carried out a chemical attack that killed over a thousand civilians, “including hundreds of children,” on August 21 in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Obama continued.

“The potential spread of weapons of mass destruction continues to cast a shadow over the pursuit of peace,” he said. “A leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed them cannot regain legitimacy.”

Citing America’s years-long involvement in Iraq, Obama said he recognized that a military option could not be the sole means to achieve peace.

“Iraq showed us that democracy cannot simply be achieved by force, but rather that these objectives can better be achieved when we partner with the international community,” he said.

Obama added that the United States will take any measures necessary in order to secure its interests in the Middle East and ensure the safety of its allies.

“We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners,” said.

The American president also referenced the new round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and said he was inspired by young Israelis during his visit to Israel in March.

“I believe there is a growing realization in Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state,” Obama said. He went on to assert that both Israel and the Palestinians had a right to security as well as self-determination.

“Israelis have the right to have their country recognized in bodies like the United Nations, and Israelis have the right to live in security,” while the Palestinians have the “right to live in peace and security in their own sovereign state.”

Israel’s security as a Jewish democracy depends on the realization of a Palestinian state, he emphasized, and called on the Arab world to recognize the imperative for a two-state solution.

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