- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) — President Barack Obama called Friday for a redoubling of efforts toward separate Israeli and Palestinian states, saying “the moment is now for us to act.”

With German Chancellor Angela Merkel by his side, the U.S. president said: “the United States can’t force peace upon the parties.” But he said that since the day he took office, “we’ve at least created the space, the atmosphere, in which talks can restart.”

He announced that he was sending special envoy George J. Mitchell back to the region next week to follow up on the president’s speech in Cairo a day earlier in which he called for both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to give ground in the longtime standoff toward the elusive goal of peace in the Middle East.

Obama said while the entire international community is going to have to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace, “ultimately the parties involved have to make the decision that the prosperity and security of their people are best served” by an accord. He stressed that the effort will take time, but added: “I’m confident that if we stick with it, having started early this year, we are going to make some progress on it.”

Merkel, for her part, promised to cooperate in her own right on this long-sought goal.

On other matters, Obama said he’s seen “some progress” in bringing stability to the world in the wake of the deep recession that has crisscrossed the continents in recent months, and said he and Merkel agreed that they must continue to “work very closely together” to restore their economies and those of other nations as well. He also said he didn’t seek any commitments from Germany as the United States seeks to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and determines what to do with the terrorism suspects there.

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The two leaders spoke after meeting privately at a castle in this city crushed by allied bombing in World War II. He was ready to tour the Buchenwald concentration camp, where an estimated 56,000 people perished. Most were Jews — worked to death, shot or hanged by Nazi guards.

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