Security environment in the Middle East deteriorated: Obama

Washington: US President Barack Obama today said the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated as he discussed about developing a strategy to blunt the activities of terror outfits like IS and Hezbollah in the region with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It’s no secret that the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas. And as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities, and that has expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds,” Obama said in a joint appearance with Netanyahu at the White House.

Talking to reporters ahead of their Oval office meeting, Obama said he and Netanyahu would have an opportunity to discuss how they can blunt the activities of Islamic State (IS), Hezbollah, other organisations in the region that carry out terrorist attacks.

“A lot of our time will be spent on a memorandum of understanding that we can potentially negotiate. It will be expiring in a couple of years, but we want to get a head start on that to make sure that both the United States and Israel can plan effectively for our defence needs going forward,” he said.

“We’ll also have a chance to talk about how implementation of Iran nuclear agreement is going. It’s no secret that the prime minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue,” Obama said.

“But we don’t have a disagreement on the need to making sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don’t have a disagreement about us blunting destabilising activities in Iran that may be taking place. We are going to be looking to make sure we find common ground there,” he said.

Netanyahu said Israel has not given up on peace in the region.

“We are obviously tested, today, in the instability and insecurity in the Middle East, as you described it. I think everybody can see it,” Netanyahu said.

“With the savagery of ISIS, with the aggression in terror by Iran’s proxies, and by Iran itself, and the combination of turbulence has now displaced millions of people, has butchered, hundreds of thousands, and we don’t know what will transpire,” he said.

“I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace. We’ll never give up our hope for peace. And I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognises the Jewish state,” he added.

Netanyahu said he looks forward to discussing with Obama practical ways in which they can lower the tension, increase stability, and move towards peace.