Obama's visit to Israel with no preconditions
Updated: 2013-02-07 01:00
JERUSALEM - The US ambassador to Israel said Wednesday that US President Barack Obama's visit to Israel next month will be made without any preconditions.
White House officials confirmed Tuesday that Obama will visit Israel in his first trip abroad during his second term. Obama did not make an official visit to Israel during his first term as president. Israeli officials are yet to confirm the report.
In interviews to local news outlets, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro reiterated that Obama's visit will not necessitate any prior conditions.
"The president's visit will strengthen the ties between Israel and the US," Shapiro told Israel Radio Wednesday morning. "The United States has a special bond with Israel," he added.
According to Shapiro, the purpose of the visit is to coordinate Israeli and US positions on several key issues, including the situation in Syria, the Iranian nuclear issue and the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Obama is coming so soon after the US and Israeli elections because it's best to start working on those topics as soon as possible," Shapiro told the radio.
Obama's visit, the first since his visit as a presidential candidate in 2008, will also include stops in other countries of the region, including Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
In the past few days, incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the need to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.
While speaking Tuesday at the 19th Knesset's opening ceremony, Netanyahu said he is striving for a diplomatic process which would maintain Israel's capacity to protect itself.
The remarks came up amid talks to build a new ruling coalition in Israel.
Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, the center party which became the second largest in the new Knesset following the January 22 elections, poised a demand of resuming peace talks in order to enter the upcoming Netanyahu government.
In addition, the Ha'aretz daily reported Tuesday that Netanyahu is in contact with Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister who stressed her commitment to the peace process in the last elections, in order to be in charge of the topic in his next government.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians came to a halt in 2010 amid Israel's growing construction in the West Bank settlements.