Hopes for Obama's trip

Updated: 2013-03-21 07:12

(China Daily)

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US President Barack Obama kicked off a three-day trip to the Middle East on Tuesday. However, the outside world has little expectation that his trip will bear any significant results.

As a country wielding special influence in a region that is afflicted with such woes as the crisis in Syria, the Iranian nuclear standoff and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United States should send positive signals so these knotty issues can be resolved in peace.

Obama's first trip to the region in his second presidential term will take him to Israel, the Palestinian West Bank and Jordan. As he has ruled out either presenting a new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative or pressing Israel to freeze Jewish settlement construction in the occupied territories, those who have pinned their hopes on him providing the impetus to restart the Middle East peace process are naturally going to be disappointed.

Given that cementing the US' strong alliance with Israel seems to be his main goal, Obama should be reminded that the US partiality to Israel in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is becoming increasingly unpopular with the rest of the international community. As Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are both starting new terms, both should seize the opportunity to create the conditions necessary to restart the long-stalled peace talks.

With the right-wing Netanyahu being politically weakened by January's election, in which centrists made surprising gains, Obama should use his leverage with Netanyahu to rein in the Israeli leader's hardline policies toward the Palestinians, which have sowed more seeds of enmity between the two sides and kept them away from the negotiating table.

With little hope of any breakthrough, nobody can guarantee that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will not worsen in the near future.

As the Iran issue is also likely to feature in Obama's visit to the Middle East, many in the world arena are concerned that the US and Israel might reduce their previous differences on the issue and go a step further in launching military strikes against Iran.

Obama should understand any maneuvering in this direction will squander the recent progress made in international efforts to defuse the West's nuclear standoff with Iran through dialogue and negotiation.

Last month in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Iran and the P5+1 powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US plus Germany - held their first round of talks this year. Continuing to build on the good momentum attained so far will cater to regional peace and stability.