Ambassador Susan Rice in an interview with Al-Jazeera, on President Obama's speech to the Muslim world

Susan E. Rice
United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
June 4, 2009


Reporter: Ambassador Rice, thank you very much for speaking with me. Let me start first by asking you, what’s your reaction to the speech and what do you think are the most important elements that came in it?

Ambassador: First off thank you for having me. It was a historic speech. An opportunity for an American president to say plainly and honestly to Muslims all over the world that the United States respects you, we have shared interests, we are all human beings, our time is short on this planet together and we must cooperate if we are to achieve the peace and the prosperity and the freedom and the hope that all of us desire. So I think it was a very important statement. There were many concrete initiatives in it in science and technology, in education and business, in health, that put meat on the bones of that pledge to work towards a new partnership. But I was very proud to be an American today and very proud to see President Obama speak with such genuine commitment and passion about an issue that is so important to all of us.

Reporter: I think a lot of people in the Arab world were also happy to listen to President Obama, but some people are saying that he made so many promises and good promises, so do you think…

Ambassador: (interrupts) If he hadn’t made promises that would have been the other criticism.

Reporter: Of course, and they are good promises. But the question is, do you think he will have the ability to achieve some of the most major issues that he mentioned, particularly when it comes to the Middle East peace process, for example.

Ambassador: Yes, is the short answer. But let me begin by saying that many of the important commitments that were made with respect to exchanges, with respect to instituting a business enterprise fund or a summit of entrepreneurs. These are all very tangible things that are important and that will add to the quality of life of the people in the Muslim world and in the United States, and they are very achievable.
The big issue that he spoke to, of course, is the US commitment to work very hard and constantly toward a two state solution, with Israel and the Palestinian people living side by side in peace and security. Obviously, my President has made a very personal and very concrete commitment to work and to put all of our effort into that outcome. And we believe that it is very important and that the time is now for that effort to succeed. It’s in the interest of the Palestinian people, the Israeli people and the American people.

Reporter: Some people expected maybe a little bit more details on what is exactly to be done in this peace process. What should we expect next, after this speech?

Ambassador: This is a process. The speech was not the place to go into details. The speech was a place to lay a framework for our broad based cooperation with the Muslim world. And it’s not limited solely to any particular issue. But obviously, the president has had important meetings over the last couple of days with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, with President Mubarak just today in Egypt, and this is part of our ongoing effort that the President is leading, with Secretary Clinton and George Mitchell, to try to find common ground, to involve the Arab states who are actively in this process, to make it clear that both sides have very concrete obligations that they have to fulfill – the Palestinians to renounce violence and build up their own capacity, the Israelis to stop all settlement activity – these are very important messages that we will continue to press and deliver as we work to bring the parties together to make progress on the concrete issues that they must to achieve the goal of a two state solution.

Reporter: If I may, also the President made some very important comments on the Iran issue (inaudible). And some people are saying that there is now a deadline on Iran, some people are saying no it’s more engagement; can you clarify for us also what shall we expect on the Iranian front?

Ambassador: Well, the President has been very clear. We have laid out to the people and the leaders of Iran our desire for a relationship that can improve on the basis of Iran upholding its responsibilities in the international community, including with respect to its nuclear program. The President said that Iran has the right for peaceful nuclear development but it cannot be a nuclear weapons state that destabilizes the region and threatens its neighbors. We have a number of issues to work through with Iran and they are very important. The President and the entire administration are very much committed to try and see if this is an opportunity, as we hope it is, to make progress on these issues.

Reporter: We thank you very much, and we hope to see you soon in the Middle East.

Ambassador: Thank you very much.


PRN: 2009/118