Thursday 12 December 2019

Obama warns Trump over Middle East

Barack Obama holds the last news conference of his presidency at the White House yesterday. Photo: Getty
Barack Obama holds the last news conference of his presidency at the White House yesterday. Photo: Getty

David Lawler

Barack Obama last night warned Donald Trump that sweeping policy changes in the Middle East would have "enormous consequences" as he delivered his final press conference as president.

He said he feared "the moment may be passing" for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, which had been one of the goals of his two-term presidency.

The president said that he stood by the decision last month to allow a UN Security Council resolution to pass criticising Israel over the growth of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories - a move widely condemned by the incoming Trump administration.

Mr Obama warned Mr Trump against any "sudden, unilateral moves" on the conflict, two days before handing the presidency over to the Republican.

"The actions that we take have enormous consequences and ramifications. We're still the biggest kid on the block," he said.

"If you're going to make big shifts in policy, there will be consequences and just make sure you've thought it through."

Replying to a question over Mr Trump's statements that he would consider ending the sanctions on Russia, Mr Obama said Moscow had "returned to the adversarial relationship that existed during the Cold War". The US had to ensure it remained on the "right side of history", as he said it had been in standing up to Russia in the past.

Mr Obama's harshest critique of Mr Trump came amid praise for his daughters, whom he said were disappointed by the election result but managed to stay optimistic.

"They paid attention to what their mom had to say in the campaign and they believed it, because it's consistent with what we've had to say in the household," he said of Michelle Obama's comments that Mr Trump had abused his power in his relationships with women.

He suggested that Mr Trump's behaviour did not match what he and Mrs Obama had "tried to model for them", and that the president-elect's "values" did not align with those that he had tried to instil.

As he left the White House press room for the final time, he said to the Washington press corps: "Good luck."

Meanwhile, Mr Trump said yesterday that his inauguration would be for "the people", as a Democratic boycott continued to grow and organisers gave up on trying to attract A-list celebrities.

Some 800,000 attendees are expected to gather on the National Mall and along the parade route in Washington tomorrow, one million fewer than turned out to greet President Obama at his first inauguration in 2009.

While Mr Obama's ceremony was attended by the likes of Beyoncé Knowles, Will Smith and Tom Hanks, there will be fewer familiar faces in the crowd to greet Mr Trump as he takes office.

Despite the projections, Mr Trump insisted that the turnout would be "astronomical" and that he never wanted to be surrounded by the rich and famous on his inauguration day.

"Many of the celebrities that are saying they're not going, they were never invited. I don't want the celebrities, I want the people," he told Fox News.

"We have the biggest celebrities in the world there," he added, mentioning himself and Mr Obama.

Toby Keith, the country star, and 3 Doors Down, the rock band best known for their 2000 hit 'Kryptonite', were due to headline a concert in Mr Trump's honour last night, with Elton John and Andrea Bocelli reportedly among those who declined to perform during the inauguration festivities.

Mr Trump said his first act after taking the Oath of Office would be to thank those who helped him get elected, as well as the presidents who came before him including the "gracious" Mr Obama.

He will then begin his inaugural address, which will last around 20 minutes and include a section on his 'America First' approach to foreign policy.

About 60 Congressional Democrats have now joined a boycott that gained momentum after a row between Mr Trump and John Lewis, a Democratic congressman and civil rights icon.

Mr Trump responded to Mr Lewis's declaration that he was not a "legitimate" president by lambasting Mr Lewis as "all talk, no action". (© Daily Telegraph London)

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