Barack Obama Plays Tourist-in-Chief in Visit to Ancient City of Petra

Wraps Up Mideast Trip With Trip to Marvel

Pass the Binoculars: President Obama wrapped his Mideast trip by playing tourist for the day, visiting the incredible ancient city of Petra in Jordan.
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Pass the Binoculars: President Obama wrapped his Mideast trip by playing tourist for the day, visiting the incredible ancient city of Petra in Jordan.

By Reuters

Published March 23, 2013.
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The rapprochement could help Washington marshal regional efforts to contain spillover from the Syrian civil war and ease Israel’s diplomatic isolation in the Middle East as it faces challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear programme.

During his visit, Obama appeared to have made some headway in easing Israelis’ suspicions of him, calming their concerns about his commitment to confronting Iran and soothing his relationship with the hawkish Netanyahu.

Obama attempted to show Palestinians he had not forgotten their aspirations for statehood but he left many disappointed that he had backtracked from his previous demands for a halt to Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

The president offered no new peace proposals but he promised his administration would stay engaged while putting the onus on the two sides to set aside mutual distrust and restart long-dormant negotiations - a step the president failed to bring about in his first term.

As Obama’s critics were complaining that his Middle East trip was heavy on symbolism and lacking in substance, the last-minute move toward Israeli-Turkish reconciliation gave his aides a chance to tout a tangible achievement.

On the last leg of his trip, Obama promised further humanitarian aid in talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah, a close ally, as the economically strapped country grapples with a refugee crisis caused by Syria’s civil war.

Obama also used the opportunity to underscore U.S. wariness about arming rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, despite pressure from Republican critics at home and from some European allies to do more.

He warned that a post-Assad Syria could become an “enclave” for Islamist extremism and insisted it was vital to help organise the Syrian opposition to avoid that, but he stopped short of announcing any new concrete steps.


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