U.S. President Barack Obama says there can be “no shortcut” to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposes a timetable of up to one year to solve the conflict.
Both leaders took the podium at the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday. Palestinian leaders are preparing to submit their application for full U.N. membership to the Security Council on Friday.
Mr. Obama said he is frustrated by delays in the peace process, but continues to believe the dispute must be resolved through negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, and not at the United Nations.
Mr. Sarkozy said that after 60 years of failed attempts at the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it is time to change the tactics. He proposed the resumption of peace talks in one month, an agreement on borders in six months, and a final deal in a year.
He also proposed an upgrade in the Palestinian government's U.N. status from that of observer to non-member status, a change that requires only a simple majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly.
Mr. Obama met Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel's security. Mr. Obama also held separate talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the General Assembly debate.
Sweeping changes in the Middle East and the global economic crisis also dominated the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly's annual debate.
Mr. Obama said the “unprecedented mandate” to intervene in Libya is an example of what international cooperation can achieve, and he said efforts by the U.N. and Arab League prevented what could have been a “massacre” during the nation's political unrest earlier this year.
He called for sanctions on the Syrian government, saying the Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting by urging leaders to support nations transitioning to democracy in the Arab world. He urged members to make the so-called “Arab Spring” of pro-democracy protests “a true season of hope for all.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff became the first woman in U.N. history to open the general debate portion of the General Assembly. In her speech, President Rousseff said she is confident that this will be the “century of women.”