Obama: Settlement row didn′t hurt Israel ties signficantly | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 16.01.2017
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Obama: Settlement row didn't hurt Israel ties signficantly

US President Barack Obama says a spat with Israel over its resettlement program hasn't caused a major "rupture" in ties. In his last TV interview before leaving office, he defended his handling of the Syrian conflict.

Obama played down fallout from Washington's refusal to veto a United Nations resolution last month which demanded an end to Israeli settlements in occupied territory in the West Bank and Gaza. 

The US abstention caused a low point in relations with Israel which had already soured during Obama's eight years in office.

But Obama told the CBS TV show "60 minutes" that he didn't think the move significantly hurt relations between the two traditional allies. 

"I don't think it caused a major rupture in relations between the United States and Israel," Obama said in an interview that aired on Sunday night. "If you're saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu got fired up, he's been fired up repeatedly during the course of my presidency."

The outgoing US leader said the settlements, which Israel denies are illegal, continued to threaten a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Syria 'red line' defended

Obama, who leaves office on Friday, also told CBS that he does not regret his speech drawing a "red line" over Syria's use of chemical weapons, a phrase critics say symbolizes the US failure to act over the country's conflict.

"I think I would have made a bigger mistake if I had said, 'Eh, chemical weapons. That doesn't really change my calculus.'"

The Syrian regime went on to use chemical weapons in rebel-controlled areas of Damascus in 2013, killing nearly 1,500 civilians.

But as Washington readied air strikes against the Syrian government, Moscow-brokered a deal to send Syrian chemical weapons to Russia - a decision critics said humiliated the White House.

'More partisan than ever'

During Sunday night's interview, Obama also defended his track record during its eight-year term.

"By almost every measure the country is significantly better off than when I came in," he told CBS, who billed the interview as Obama's last as US President.

But he acknowledged that he had failed to "crack the code in terms of reducing this partisan fever" in Washington, referring to ideological differences between the Democrats and Republicans which have continue to widen during his two terms in office.

Obama said he hoped democracy would stay healthy and the country maintains a sense of solidarity under President-elect Donald Trump, who is set to be inaugurated in Washington on Friday.

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mm/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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