Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Picks Mitchell and Holbrooke to Represent

Swamp: Trying to make good on the promise of his campaign and inauguration speech to raise diplomacy's role in U.S. foreign policy, President Obama visited the State Department on his second full day in office where he proclaimed a "new era of American leadership" in international affairs.

The president joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department for the announcement of the new administration's emissaries to two of the world's most troubled regions. Former Sen. George Mitchell was named the administration's special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority while Amb. Richard Holbrooke will become special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"My appearance today... underscores my commitment to the importance of diplomacy in renewing American leadership," Obama told an audience filled with career foreign service officials. "...Let there be no doubt about America's commitment to lead. We can no longer afford drift, and we can no longer afford delay, nor can we cede ground to those who seek destruction."
Obama askes Israel to open borders with Gaza:
Aljazeera: Barack Obama, the US president, has called on Israel to open its borders with Gaza to humanitarian aid and commerce in his first public remarks on the crisis there since becoming president.

Obama, who said he was deeply concerned about the loss of life in Gaza, also reiterated the US view that Israel had a right to defend itself from Palestinian rocket attacks.

"Now we must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace, as part of a lasting ceasefire, Gaza's border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce," Obama said.
The US leader was speaking at the state department as he named George Mitchell, former peace negotiator in Northern Ireland, as US special envoy for the Middle East.

Obama also reiterated the US backing for international demands made of the Hamas movement - that it recognise Israel, end violence and agree to recognise previous peace agreements with Israel.

He said the US would support efforts to end weapons smuggling across the Gaza border from Egypt.

However, he called for a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza following its offensive, and said the US would provide humanitarian and economic assistance to the millions of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera Obama's remarks seemed to show that the US viewed the situation through "Israeli eyes".
The devastation in Gaza is said to be shocking:
MSNBC: Opening a five-day trip to the region, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes called the steep Palestinian casualty toll from Israel's offensive "extremely shocking" and suggested the United Nations might ask Israel to compensate it for wartime damage to U.N. compounds in Gaza. Hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid were destroyed by Israeli shelling that struck the main U.N. compound.
Mitchell says peace in the Middle East is possible
Here's Holbrooke talking in November about how to approach Afghanistan and Russia:

Obama envoy announcement transcript.