After meeting German leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, earlier in the day, Barak Obama (photo, from bbc.co.uk) spoke in the city’s Tiergarten park, in Germany’s capital, at the beginning of the European leg of an international tour. The Democratic presidential candidate has told Berliners that after having drifted apart, it is time for the US and Europe to come together again.
“If we’re honest… we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart and forgotten our shared destiny”, he said.
This was the only public speech of his current world tour and according to Berlin police, more than 200 000 people turned out to hear him. And as he is a popular figure in Germany, his words were broadcast live.
He began his speech by paying tribute to the Berliners, who held out against Soviet pressure during the blockade after World War II. And as he was not far from where the Berlin Wall once divided the city, Mr Obama said “the walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand”.
He named terrorism, nuclear proliferation, drugs and climate change as global challenges, while appealing for a renewed partnership with Europe.
The Illinois senator, 46, is very popular in Germany, where surveys suggest three-quarters of people want him to be the next US president, reports the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg from Berlin.
“While the 20th Century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history”, said Mr Obama.
“In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common”, he continued.
“In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe’s role in our security and our future.”
He added : “But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together.”
Partnership and co-operation among nations was “not a choice”, he said, arguing that “it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity”.
The time had come, said the White House Democratic hopeful, to “defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it”.
Barack Obama added that it was the moment to end the conflict in Iraq, to “renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons” and to “come together to save this planet”.
In Berlin, security is tight, as one report that the hotel where the US candidate is staying was closed off, after a suspicious package was found.
When he visited Israel, Mr Obama said he agreed with Israel’s decision not to negotiate with the Palestinian group Hamas. And speaking in the town of Sderot, regularly hit by rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza, the Democratic candidate said that the US also supported Israel’s right to defend itself “against those who threaten its people”.
Although the status of Jerusalem remains one of the most contentious parts of any solution to the Middle East conflict, he reiterated his position that Jerusalem “will be” the capital of Israel. To him the city will be a “final status issue”, which must be decided by negotiation. He added that he remained committed to a two-state solution to the conflict.
Israel’s claim that Jerusalem is its undivided capital is not recognised by the international community, including the US, while Palestinians hope to have East Jerusalem, currently occupied by Israel, as the capital of any future Palestinian state.
After Germany, Barack Obama is due to visit France on Friday, and Britain on Saturday.