June 4 speech in Cairo: Obama to identify areas of partnership with Muslim world
WASHINGTON, May 30 President Barack Obama will identify new areas of partnership between the United States and the Muslim world in his long-awaited speech in Cairo on June 4, the White House said.
At a special briefing on the visit, senior White House officials told reporters on Friday night that the president will underscore the “mutual interests and mutual respect“ that united the two worlds.
The speech, co-hosted by the Cairo and Al-Azhar universities on Thursday, will be televised across the world. Mr Obama will also visit a mosque in Cairo.
At the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the speech would outline Mr Obama`s personal commitment to engagement with the Muslim world.
“He will discuss how the United States and Muslim communities around the world can bridge some of the differences that have divided them,” Mr Gibbs said. “He will review particular issues of concern, such as violent extremism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And he will discuss new areas for partnership going forward that serve the mutual interests of our people.”
Mr Obama`s journey of reconciliation to the Muslim world will start on Wednesday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a private meeting with King Abdullah.
“That obviously is also part of our outreach to the Muslim world,” said Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications, “but also an opportunity while he`s in this vitally important region to discuss a range of important concerns from energy to Middle East peace to the fight against extremism”.
Mr McDonough said President Obama chose Egypt to deliver his message because it`s a key country in the Arab and Muslim world.
“Like much of the Muslim world, Egypt itself is a young country with a burgeoning younger population that the president looked very much forward to engaging directly in this speech and in the meetings while he`s there.”
President Obama`s decision to reach out to the Muslims has raised eyebrows in America`s conservative Jewish circles who fear that an improvement in relations between the US and Muslim world could hurt Israel.
In a move aimed apparently at appeasing such groups, Mr Obama will head from Egypt to Germany, for a visit to the concentration camp, Buchenwald. He will “underscore the terrible tragedy, the undeniable tragedy of the Holocaust”, Mr McDonough said. And he will end in France, commemorating the 65th anniversary of the landing at Normandy.
But the focal point of the trip remains Cairo.
“Obviously the choice of the location… (is) underscoring the storied history and learnedness of Islam,” Mr McDonough said.
“We want to get back on a shared partnership, back in a conversation that focuses on the shared values, and that`s what the president will talk about in Cairo.”
Mr Obama`s speech, he said, “addresses the range of issues and interests and concerns that we have across this broad swath of the globe that is the Muslim world.”
Mr McDonough said that Mr Obama`s own background would further strengthen the message he plans to deliver.
“The fact is, that the president himself experienced Islam on three continents before he`s been able to visit the heart of the Islamic world — growing up in Indonesia, having a Muslim father — obviously Muslim Americans a key part of Illinois and Chicago.”