Obama dispatches Clinton to Middle East
Phnom Penh: US President Barack Obama Tuesday dispatched his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Middle East on a fire fighting mission to defuse tension and prevent any further escalation of conflict in the region.
"Clinton will depart today and she'll travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Cairo, leaving from Phonm Penh," Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication, told reporters here.
"She'll meet with regional leaders, beginning with our Israeli partners, to consult on the situation in Gaza," he said.
Clinton's trip came as the death toll from Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip since Wednesday rose to over 110.
"Her visits will build on the engagement that we've undertaken over the last several days, including the engagement by President Obama and Secretary Clinton with leaders in the region to support a de-escalation of the violence and a durable outcome that ends the rocket attacks on Israeli cities and restores a broader calm in the region," Rhodes said.
"On her trip, Clinton will emphasise the US' interest in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel's security and regional stability -- an outcome that can lead to improved conditions for the civilian residents of Gaza, and that could reopen the path to fulfil the aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis for two states living side by side in peace and security," the White House official said.
Obama's decision to send Clinton to the Middle East was taken after days of telephonic conversation both had with leaders in the region, with no letup in the tension.
"Secretary Clinton and the President spoke about the situation in Gaza and the calls that he'd done, and they agreed that it makes sense for the Secretary to travel to the region," Rhodes said.
Both Obama and Clinton believe that the best way to solve this is crisis through diplomacy so that there is a peaceful settlement that ends that rocket fire and allows for a broader calm in the region.
"We want to broaden those discussions as we move forward with Secretary Clinton going to the region so that we can build on the constructive role that Egypt is playing and send a clear message that it's in nobody's interest to see an escalation of the military conflict," he added.
Clinton's first stop will be in Israel, where she will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Then she'll be meeting with Palestinians in Ramallah, and she will be meeting with Egyptian leaders in Cairo. And again, the goal throughout that trip is for everybody to use their influence and their voices to encourage a peaceful outcome rather than an escalation. Our bottom line is that peaceful outcome has to include an end to rocket fire that threatens Israel," Rhodes said.