These are hectic times President Barack Obama said in a meeting today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Oval Office in the White House.
"The Prime Minister and I were just talking about the fact these are hectic times, and nowhere is that more true, obviously, than in the Middle East. And so we had an opportunity for a wide-ranging discussion about a range of issues."
Those issues, according to the President, include Middle East situations with Iran, Syria, Palestine and Egypt.
Obama praised the Israeli leader's "courage in being willing to step forward" on the issue with the Palestinian government and mentioned that there is only "a limited amount of time" for negotiations.
"I commended him for entering into good-faith negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in discussing how we can resolve what has been, obviously, one of the biggest challenges for a very long time in the region. And both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas have assigned outstanding negotiators. They have been engaging in serious conversations. And our goal continues to be to help facilitate -- not dictate, but facilitate -- the kinds of genuine negotiations that will result in two states living side-by-side in peace and security."
Regarding Syria, President Obama stated:
"Obviously, we have a broad set of strategic concerns in Syria. We are both pleased that there is the possibility of finally getting chemical weapons stockpiles out of Syria. But I think we both share a deep concern that we have to be able to verify and enforce what has now been agreed to at the United Nations. Chemical weapons inside of Syria obviously have threatened Syrian civilians, but over the long term also pose a threat to Israel. And we want to make sure that we get those indiscriminate, horrible weapons out of there."
Statements today by Obama on Syria also mentioned "...we are consulting with the international community on these issues, and I shared with the Prime Minister our belief that we have to move with speed and dispatch in actually making sure that the agreement that was arrived at in the United Nations is followed through on."
The ongoing Syrian civil war, which has left 115,000 people dead to date, according to a piece by Time, is of concern. The President mentioned the Israeli concern as "Israel's significant interest in the spillover effects of activities there" as he spoke of the "larger question of how to deal with the civil war."
Then concerns on Egypt were broght up by President Obama:
"We had an opportunity to discuss Egypt, and I shared with him what I said at the United Nations just a week ago, which is that we continue to have concerns about what has happened in Egypt, but we also are committed to a constructive relationship with Egypt, in part because of the important role that the Camp David Accords and the Egypt-Israeli peace serve not only for the stability and security of both those countries, but also for security in the region and U.S. security."
Obama stated that the U.S. will "continue to work" with the Egyptian government, "... urging them and pushing them in a direction that is more inclusive and that meets the basic goals of those who originally sought for more freedom and more democracy in that country."
For their discussion on Iran, the President stated:
"Both the Prime Minister and I agree, since I came into office, that it is imperative that Iran not possess a nuclear weapon. That is important for American security; it is important for Israeli security; it’s important for world security, because we do not want to trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world. And given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past -- the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel -- it is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon. "
President Obama believes that the Iranians are now prepared for negotiations, after years of sanctions against them.
"What I also shared with the Prime Minister is that, because of the extraordinary sanctions that we have been able to put in place over the last several years, the Iranians are now prepared, it appears, to negotiate. We have to test diplomacy. We have to see if, in fact, they are serious about their willingness to abide by international norms and international law and international requirements and resolutions. And we in good faith will approach them, indicating that it is our preference to resolve these issues diplomatically."
While the President hopes to solve things diplomatically, he also said:
"But as President of the United States, I've said before and I will repeat that we take no options off the table, including military options, in terms of making sure that we do not have nuclear weapons in Iran that would destabilize the region and potentially threaten the United States of America."
In Prime Minister Netanyahu's remarks, however, he stated clearly:
"Iran is committed to Israel's destruction. So for Israel, the ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its military nuclear program. We have a saying in Hebrew, we call it mivchan hatotza’a -- you would say it in English, what's the bottom line? And the bottom line, again, is that Iran fully dismantles its military nuclear program."
The Prime Minister also stated that while there are many things on the President's plate, he wanted the President and all Americans to know one thing:
"... that there is no better ally -- more reliable, more stable, more democratic -- other than Israel in a very raw, dangerous place."