Special relationship 'stronger than ever'

Cameron and Obama held a joint press conference in Lancaster House
Cameron and Obama held a joint press conference in Lancaster House

By Alex Stevenson

Barack Obama has claimed the US' partnership with Britain is at a high point, during a joint press conference in central London.

The US president's claim was the furthest he went in praise of the UK and its importance to his country, which he suggested was underpinned by "shared ideals and values".

Speaking in a joint press conference with David Cameron held in the garden of Lancaster House, Mr Obama said there was "no doubt" that the US and the UK have a "unique relationship".

"That is going to be consistent regardless of who the president and the prime minister is," he said.

"There is so much that binds us together that it is not surprising that we are going to be working together on the international stage, rather than at cross purposes."

Mr Cameron underlined those sentiments in his opening remarks.

"We have learned the lessons of history. Democracy is built from the ground up," he said.

"You've got to work with the grain of other cultures and not against them. Real change takes time.

"It's because we share this view that this partnership will not just continue, but get stronger."

The pair defended their respective approaches to dealing with the deficits, insisting that their different approaches were unsurprising because they were dealing with different countries.

They were more united on a different approach to foreign affairs, standing in stark contrast to that of their predecessors George Bush and Tony Blair.

"The one thing we have learned," Mr Obama added, "is that even as we promote the values and ideals that we care about... we are using military power in a strategic and careful way, that we are making sure that as we promote democracy and human rights that we understand the limits of what the military alone can achieve, and that we're mindful that ultimately the fate of these regions will be determined by the people themselves."

Mr Cameron said Britain "stood in solidarity" with America after September 11th, but was clear to underline the importance of "patience and persistence" when dealing with Muammar Gaddafi.

"Every relationship between a president and a prime minister is different," the prime minister commented.

"We've both called it an essential relationship, but we have to learn the lessons of history about how best to promote the values that we share."

Both used Libya as the chief example of caution being necessary. "We are doing things in a different way," Mr Obama insisted. "We have ruled out occupying armies.

"David and I both agree we cannot put boots on the ground in Libya. Once you rule out ground forces, there are going to be some inherent limitations to our air strike operations."

The pair fielded questions about hacker Gary McKinnon who faces extradition to the US, whose case is now before home secretary Theresa May, and the peace process in Israel.

And they offered equally reserved expressions of hope about prospects of peace in the Middle East, voicing concern about Fatah's agreement with Hamas.

Mr Obama concluded the press conference by comparing the situation in Israel and the occupied territories with that in Ireland, which he visited earlier this week.

"It was inspiring to see people so rapidly reorienting how they thought about themselves," he said.

"Her Majesty's visit had a profound effect on the entire country and so it is an enormous source of hope. It's a reminder that as tough as these things are, if you stick to it and people of goodwill remain engaged, ultimately even the worst of conflicts can be resolved."


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