U.S. President Barack Obama needs to make good on the promises that won him the Nobel Peace Prize, fellow laureate and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said on Thursday. Carter called on the current American president to back the Palestinian’s bid to the UN for statehood and seize the opportunity provided by the Arab Spring to facilitate Palestinian-Israeli peace.
The shaking up of authoritarian rule in the Arab world has created opportunities for resolving conflicts in the Middle East, Carter said, comparing the Arab Spring to the political reality in which he, as president, helped broker the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
Carter reiterated his support for the Palestinians’ push for recognition of statehood in the United Nations, saying he hoped they would secure backing in the UN General Assembly to at least enhance their status in the body. However, he said the U.S. veto in the Security Council would block full membership.
"The United States will veto any move in the Security Council if they get the votes there, which I think is a mistake. But that's the privilege of the president to decide," he said during a brief visit to Oslo to meet Norwegian diplomats.
"But I think the entire Arab Spring movement is at least breaking the ice and letting some more flexibility be introduced into a stalemated Middle East situation,” he added.
On the eve of this year's Nobel award, which could honor the Arab Spring protesters who caught Washington off guard by toppling autocratic leaders who were U.S. allies, Carter told Reuters he hoped his fellow Democrat would keep his promises to promote human rights, Middle East peace and other issues.
"I hope he'll fulfill the promises that were made at the time he got the peace prize," Carter said in an interview when asked what Obama, who was honored in 2009 after being in office less than a year, could do to live up to the honor.
"It was given primarily because of some of the commitments he had made verbally, his speeches and so forth about taking the leadership role and dealing with global warming and dealing with the immigration problem, enhancing human rights, promoting peace in the Middle East," Carter said, a prizewinner in 2002.
"I hope that some of those promises will be realized," he said, adding that he believed Obama would overcome sagging poll ratings to win re-election to a second term next year.
Carter, 86, who has worked to resolve conflicts and promote democracy since leaving office 30 years ago, has been critical of U.S. -- and Israeli -- positions on Middle East peace and called Obama's likely veto of giving a Palestinian state UN membership is a "mistake" at a time when, he believed, the Arab Spring had opened new possibilities for settling the region's disputes.
Obama, who acknowledged that his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was controversial when he received it "at the beginning and not at the end" of his presidency, has been accused of failing to deliver on promises made in a speech to the Muslim world in Cairo that year.
The toppling this year of Tunisia's strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali followed by Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, a close U.S. ally, led to harsh criticism of Washington, who many claimed were slow to back democratic uprisings due to political considerations.
Many tipsters think the Norwegian Nobel Committee, appointed by the parliament in Oslo, may honor the young, Twitter-using demonstrators who humbled police states in Tunis and Cairo and set an example for Syrians, Libyans, Yemenis and others.
But the Peace Prize is notoriously difficult to predict and Carter, whose presence in Oslo was, he said, coincidental, would not be drawn on a forecast. "I don't have any way to know ahead of time," he said. "I didn't know when I got it."
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