JAKARTA: President Barack Obama said Tuesday the United States must go beyond security issues as it seeks to improve relations with the Islamic world, as he visited Muslim-majority Indonesia.
He said his administration was "on the right path" in its efforts to build bridges with Muslims around the world, but admitted the job was incomplete and there was "a lot more work to do."
"We don’t expect that we are going to completely eliminate some of the misunderstandings and mistrust that have developed over a long period of time, but we do think that we’re on the right path," he told reporters at a joint press conference with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
"What we’re trying to do is make sure that we are building bridges and expanding our interactions with Muslim countries so that they’re not solely focused on security issues."
He said Indonesia — the Muslim world’s most populous country — was an example of a mainly Muslim country which the United States had to engage on a range of levels, including trade, education and climate change.
"You come to a place like Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, but people here have a lot of other interests other than security," he said.
"Security is important but I want make sure that we are interacting with a wide range of people on a wide range of issues.
"That will be good for our security but it will also be good for the larger cause of understanding between the US and the Muslim world.”
Obama is due to make a speech in Jakarta on Wednesday that has been billed as a follow-up to his Cairo oration in 2009, in which he pledged to reset US relations with the Muslim world following the Bush administration’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yudhoyono said the two leaders had pledged in bilateral talks to work more closely in the fight against terror, which he called the "enemy of any nation."
Islamist extremists have launched multiple attacks on Indonesia since 2000, including the Bali bombings eight years ago which killed more than 200 people, mainly Western tourists.