Obama: Use Gaza Flotilla Tragedy to Propel Mideast Peace

U.S. President tells CNN's Larry King that while Israel has 'legitimate security concerns," the Gaza siege prevents Palestinians from pursuing opportunities.

U.S. President Barack Obama was quoted in a television interview on Thursday as saying the deadly Gaza flotilla incident was "tragic," but expressing hope it could somehow provide an opening to boost Middle East peace efforts.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaking at Carnegie Mellon University

Obama, in an interview with CNN's Larry King days after an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship, said Israel "has legitimate security concerns" about the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the network said on its website.

But he also said Israel's blockade of Gaza "is preventing people" from pursuing economic opportunities," CNN reported in an excerpt of what will be broadcast in full later on Thursday.

Obama described this week's flotilla incident, in which nine activists were killed and dozens, including Israeli soldiers, were wounded, as a "tragic situation" but also said it needed to be used as an opportunity to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, CNN said.

The Obama administration has taken a relatively cautious line while Israel faces international condemnation over the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists, including a 19-year-old American, aboard a ship carrying supplies to Gaza on Monday.

U.S. officials have said the incident underscores the need to make progress in indirect U.S.-brokered peace talks that began last month and have failed so far to make much headway.

But analysts and many people in the region believe the incident is more likely to undermine fledgling peace moves.