Obama departs Washington for Israel

2013-03-20 08:09
US President Barack Obama makes his way to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

US President Barack Obama makes his way to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. (Mandel Ngan, AFP)

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Andrews Air Force Base - Barack Obama departed late on Tuesday en route to Israel for a four-day trip to the Middle East, a journalist travelling with the US president said.

The president's airplane, Air Force One, took off at 20:15 (0015 GMT Wednesday) from Andrews Air Force Base outside the US capital.

US officials have styled Obama's trip as an effort to reconnect with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he had a delicate relationship during his first term, and to co-ordinate on key issues like Iran and Syria.

Obama will also travel to see Palestinian leaders on the West Bank and visit Jordan on the first foreign policy mission of his second term.

Administration officials have signalled there will be no major peace initiative during the trip, with Obama stating he is travelling to the region to "listen" to both sides.

Obama will meet Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and his premier Salam Fayyad in Ramallah, to hear their perspective on how to resolve the decades-long conflict.

"My goal on this trip is to listen. I intend to meet with Bibi (Netanyahu) ... I intend to meet with Fayyad and Abu Mazen (Abbas) and to hear from them what is their strategy, what is their vision, where do they think this should go?" Obama told Israeli television.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  barack obama  |  israel  |  us  |  middle east peace

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