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updated 9/12/2011 6:46:34 PM ET 2011-09-12T22:46:34

The Obama administration is watching warily as relations among its allies Israel, Egypt and Turkey deteriorate, threatening Mideast stability and U.S. goals for the region.

The simultaneous trouble between the Jewish state and two Muslim nations that have been a security and diplomatic bulwark for Israel comes as the Palestinians prepare to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations this month. The U.N. action, which the U.S. has fought without success, is likely to further complicate peace efforts, leave Israel even more isolated and force the Obama administration into the uncomfortable position of appearing to side with Israel over other allies and partners.

Story: Beyond Cairo, Israel sensing a wider siege

A flurry of weekend phone calls among President Barack Obama, his top national security aides and their Israeli, Egyptian and regional counterparts over Friday's assault on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo underscored U.S. concerns about developments. The attack could have jeopardized the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal, which has been a bedrock of Mideast stability for three decades. Along with the Egypt-Israel concerns, U.S. officials worry about recent tough talk from Turkey about the slide in its relations with Israel.

Obama personally reassured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of U.S. support in a Friday phone as Egyptian protesters sacked Israel's embassy. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke twice to Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammed Amr to remind him of Egypt's obligation to protect diplomatic property and personnel as well as to emphasize the importance the United States places on Egyptian-Israeli peace.

Story: Israeli PM condemns embassy attack in Cairo

The State Department said the administration was "gratified" by statements from both Israeli and Egyptian officials seeking to ease tensions. But officials left no doubt as to the seriousness of the matter and its implications, particularly given the already precarious nature of the Israel's relationship with Turkey and the impending Palestinian bid at the U.N.

Grave concern over embassy attack
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the embassy attack an "extreme" and "very serious incident" that prompted grave concern at the highest levels of the administration.

"It's not simply about this isolated incident; it's about the importance of maintaining stability and peace across the region not only day to day, week to week, but month to month, which takes us back to the messages that we've been sending on the way to the meetings in New York next week," she told reporters, referring to the annual U.N. General Assembly session that begins Sept. 20.

In addition to Obama's call to Netanyahu on Friday and Clinton's calls to Amr, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Egyptian military leader Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi on Friday, the Pentagon said. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with his Israeli counterpart on Friday and his Egyptian counterpart on Sunday.

Story: Egypt's military and protesters move farther apart

As those calls progressed, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman, spoke with the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council and senior officials from Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

"Our hope is to avoid any spillover into the larger region," Nuland said. "The fact that both the Egyptian and the Israeli governments spoke strongly about the importance of bringing this situation under control and the fact that it has now been brought under control gives us some hope going forward. But, obviously, we all need to be vigilant."

Feltman urged each official to counsel calm and encourage a return to a situation "where Egypt and Israel could be confident in their relationship (and) could be confident in the agreements that they have with each other," Nuland said.

It is "important not simply to settle the immediate problem of security around the Israeli mission in Cairo but also with regard to the region as a whole as we move into a very complicated period heading towards the meetings in New York."

US vows veto of Palestinian state
The administration has threatened to veto a Palestinian statehood resolution at the U.N. Security Council but it cannot kill the move in the larger General Assembly, where passage is all but assured. Approval of Palestinian statehood by the General Assembly would be largely symbolic, but it would validate the Palestinian argument that it must go ahead on its own rather than wait for Israel to strike a deal over borders and other issues that have held up statehood for years. Israel and the U.S. maintain that Palestinian statehood is their goal but that it must be reached through negotiation.

"A unilateral Palestinian effort to achieve statehood at the U.N. would be counterproductive," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. "Even if these actions are well-intentioned, they will not achieve statehood."

Direct negotiations, Carney said, are "the only path to the kind of solution that the Palestinians rightfully want and that the Israelis rightfully want. You have to do it through direct negotiations. You won't get it through the U.N."

Both Egypt and Turkey are likely to side with the Palestinians, leaving the U.S. and only a handful of other nations taking Israel's side.

Administration officials continue to press the Palestinians to drop their U.N. aspirations for an alternative, possibly a statement of support from the international diplomatic quartet of Mideast peacemakers — the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. However, in a blow to quartet unity, Russia said Monday it would support any Palestinian effort at the United Nations. Further complicating matters, an influential former Saudi diplomat said his country's relations with the U.S. would suffer if Washington vetoed a Security Council resolution.

Into this mix, Israeli-Turkish relations have plummeted in recent weeks as Israel has refused Turkish demands for an apology over its raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last year that killed eight Turks and a Turkish American on board a Turkish ship trying to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that the raid was "cause for war" but added that his country showed "patience" and refrained from taking any action.

But this month, Turkey suspended its military ties with Israel, expelled top Israeli diplomats, pledged to campaign in support of the Palestinians' statehood bid and vowed to send the Turkish navy to escort Gaza-bound aid ships in the future.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Siege launched on Israeli embassy in Cairo

  1. Closed captioning of: Siege launched on Israeli embassy in Cairo

    >>> the israeli embassy in cairo was under siege this weekend, penetrated by a mob of protesters who scaled the walls, removed the flag and seized documents. it forced the ambassador to flee. we are now joined by israeli's ambassador to the united states , michael oren . obviously a very scary time. what can you tell us about the security situation in cairo for your property, for your personnel?

    >> the embassy is being guarded. we have every intention of reopening once the security situation allows. the egyptian government is ensuring us they have every intention of maintaining the peace treaty with us. we are committed to the peace troo treaty and it is shared by the obama administration which acted swiftly and decisively to secure our embassy on friday night when it was overwhelmed.

    >> how did the obama administration help the israeli diplomats who were under siege in cairo ?

    >> prime minister netanyahu called president obama friday evening and asked him to intercede and the president acted immediately, called egyptian leaders, secretary of state clinton also made phone calls and assured that egyptian forces were on hand to help assist with the rescue operation .

    >> this was a really dire situation, but it's also very concerning because of the rest of the relationship. this is the longest standing peace treaty with the arab world , and if that's in jeopardy, and if you no longer feel secure on the border because of what's happening in sinai and the way egyptian police and security officials post the arab spring are guarding gaza and the tunnels into gaza , this creates even your country.

    >> keep in mind the entire middle east , andrea, is in upheaval. people want jobs and democracy. they're angry, frustrated. sometimes they turn that frustration and anger at us. other times radicals turn it at us.

    >> this was not the muslim brotherhood .

    >> it was a soccer team involved in a conflict the day before.

    >> it was a flash mob ?

    >> mostly soccer fans . it had nothing to do with us and i think that's very important to point out that the situation in the middle east is not about us. sometimes we get some of that anger gets deflected toward us. it's not about us. this was a perfect case of that. the egyptian government is committed to maintaining the peace and we're hoping to open the embassy as soon as possible.

    >> let me play a recent interview newsmax did, ron kessler with former vice president dick cheney about israel 's intentions potentially toward iran .

    >> in terms of iran , do you think that israel would attack their nuclear facilities if necessary?

    >> i think they would. i think for israel iran represents an existential threat and they'll do whatever they have to do to guarantee their survival and their security.

    >> we're seeing a lot of warnings that more and more of the uranium is being enriched to 20% and potentially beyond. when is iran going to reach the point where it is an existential threat and we could see israel taking military action?

    >> first of all we have some time but not a lot of time, and israel of course does have the right to defend itself against iranian threats which are quite considerable, but we're committed to the sanction program as led by president obama and with like-minded countries in the world and we're exploring ways of ratcheting up the sanctions right now and hope they'll prove effective in deflecting the iranians from acquiring nuclear weaponses.

    >> ann curry is in turkey, tensions with egypt and turkey, arguments as to whether you can diplomats with turkey, and developing the conversation with friends becoming potential adversa adversaries. z>> there was no questions as to the flotilla and whether sex excessive force was used?

    >> we would go to arbitration which was a risk with the u.n., not always so fair toward israel and they found the, israel 's blockade of gaza was legal and necessary to prevent rockets from falling into the hands of hamas. they found our soldiers who blocked the flotilla from reaching gaza uncountered serious violent resistance, had to defend themselves.

    >> there was critics excessive force was used.

    >> they also said we should expressed regret and we expressed deep regret and offered to pay compensation. we want the turks to come back and be our friends and we hope that they'll go that way and not a different way.

    >> thank you so much, ambassador michael oren . a busy period with the meetings and vote on statehood. look forward to continuing the conversation.

    >> as always.

Photos: Farewell Friday

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  1. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Feb. 11. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Egyptians set off fireworks as they celebrate in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after President Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. President Barack Obama makes a statement on the resignation of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in the Grand Foyer at the White House in Washington D.C. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military on Friday. Egypt exploded with joy, tears, and relief after pro-democracy protesters brought down President Hosni Mubarak with a momentous march on his palaces and state TV. Mubarak, who until the end seemed unable to grasp the depth of resentment over his three decades of authoritarian rule, finally resigned Friday. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Protesters walk over a barricade after it was taken down to allow free entry to hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 11, 2011. A furious wave of protest finally swept Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak from power, sending a warning to autocrats across the Arab world and beyond. (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A spokesman for Egypt's higher military council reads a statement titled “Communiqué No. 3” in this video still on Friday. Egypt's higher military council said it would announce measures for a transitional phase after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. (Reuters Tv / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Egyptian celebrates in Cairo after the announcement of President Mubarak's resignation. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. A furious wave of protest finally swept Mubarak from power after 30 years of one-man rule, sparking jubilation in the streets. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. An Egyptian reacts in the street after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military in Cairo, Egypt, on Friday, Feb. 11. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Thousands of Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation on Friday. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Egyptian soldiers celebrate with anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square on Friday. Cairo's streets exploded in joy when Mubarak stepped down after three-decades of autocratic rule and handed power to a junta of senior military commanders. (Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Egyptians celebrate the news of Mubarak's resignation in Tahrir Square on Friday. (Tara Todras-whitehill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An Egyptian woman cries as she celebrates the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who handed control of the country to the military, Friday night, in Tahrir Square, Cairo. (Tara Todras-whitehill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate minutes after the announcement on television of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday. Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had resigned. (Khaled Elfiqi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Opposition protesters celebrate Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, in Tahrir Square on Friday. President Mubarak bowed to pressure from the street and resigned, handing power to the army. (Suhaib Salem / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. On Egyptian state television, Al-Masriya, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman delivers an address announcing that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, in Cairo on Friday. (TV via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo
    Dylan Martinez / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (18) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Farewell Friday
  2. Image: Protester in Tahrir Square
    Emilio Morenatti / AP
    Slideshow (61) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Week 3
  3. Image: Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters
    Amr Nabil / AP
    Slideshow (93) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Week 2
  4. Image: Mohamed ElBaradei
    Khalil Hamra / AP
    Slideshow (83) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Week 1
  5. Image:
    Mayra Beltran / AP
    Slideshow (17) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - World reacts

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