UNITED NATIONS/CAIRO - US President Barack Obamas speech calling for an end to the rift between the West and the worlds Muslims was a 'crucial step in bridging differences, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday. I strongly welcome its message of peace, understanding and reconciliation, the UN chief said in a statement. President Obamas speech is a crucial step in bridging divides and promoting intercultural understanding, which is a major objective of the United Nations. Ban said Obamas message heralds a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and the Islamic world and he was optimistic that it would favourably impact efforts to end the conflicts in the Middle East. Agencies add: In a major speech aimed at repairing ties between the US and the Muslim world, President Barack Obama drew a mixed response from corners of the globe. In the Delice coffee shop in the heart of Gaza City customers watched the speech in silence, some paying more attention than others. But there was not a hint of applause, even when Obama talked about the intolerable situation facing the Palestinians. Many said they welcomed his words, but wanted to see action on the ground. He touched our emotions, especially when he quoted from the Holy Quran, said Ehab Qishawi, a diplomat in the foreign ministry in Gaza. His words were good, but up to now we havent seen any policies on the ground. Thats what were waiting for. Weve had a lot of experience with the Americans and we know that there are always red lines, especially when it comes to the relationship with Israel. Eyad Galaja, 28, who works in the health ministry helping refer patients for treatment abroad, said: It is easy to say the words, many presidents have given good speeches, but the most important thing is the actions. The first step should be to put pressure on Israel to lift the siege on Gaza, open the commercial crossings and let goods come in. Others have been more outspoken in their criticism of Obama and the US administration. Asad Abu Shark, a professor of linguistics at Al-Azhar University, said he was wary of hearing sugar-coated language. Any American gesture in the right direction is welcome, he said. If the Americans want an even-handed policy we welcome that, but actions speak louder than words. We dont want to live in hope until we die in despair. He wants Washington to press Israel to end its blockade of Gaza, end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now Israel. Abu Shark, whose family are refugees from what is now the Israel city of Ashqelon, believes in a one-state solution to the Middle East conflict, with Israelis and Palestinians living together as citizens of a single, binational state. It is an idea that is gaining ground among Palestinians but is strongly opposed by Israelis. He was concerned about Americas close relationships to the leaders of the Arab world. If US says it wants democracy and then he meets with dictators it means there is a double standard, he said. They should stop listening to Arab rulers and start listening to the Arab public. There was interest if not excitement at the New Raja restaurant, a modest lunchtime joint in Islamabad. Mopping up his curry with a chunk of flat bread as he waited for the speech to start, Nisar Ahmed Faizee, a burly trader with a scraggly beard, was sceptical it would change much. Osama, Obama - whats the difference? he said, reaching for his cigarettes. Its all a big drama. His languid cynicism was reflected on the streets outside, where men lounged in the shade sipping fruit juice and sheltering from the head-drilling heat of a Pakistani summer. Not many came inside to watch. Were not interested, said Anwar Khan, perched behind a counter filled with cheap watches. The cricket friendly between Ireland and the Netherlands played on his tiny television. For us, Bush and Obama are the same. They are droning us to death. He was referring to the CIA-led drone strikes against al-Qaida targets in the tribal belt, a common source of anti-American anger in Pakistan. The traders knew plenty about Islamist violence: down the street lay the Red Mosque, the extremist stronghold where 100 people died during a nine-day siege two years ago. But back inside the restaurant, the speech was having a gentle impact. Customers were coming and going, and those watching wore impenetrable expressions, even as the Cairo crowd thundered with applause. A hard core of about 10 customers watched closely, following the Urdu subtitles. At the front, craning his neck up, was an office clerk named Rafiullah. US policy is changing now, inshallah, he said afterwards, singling out the mentions of Israeli policy for praise. Obama says he is going to try to change it, and I believe him. Some seemed drawn simply by the image of Obama. I dont know much, said Muhammad Irshad, a young cobbler. But at least hes better than Bush. As the customers turned back to their cups of tea, the consensus view was that the words were welcome, but not enough. Good speech. It has created a lot of hope, conceded Nisar Ahmed Faizee, the sceptic. But saying is one thing, doing is another. Now he has to deliver. 'Muslims want action not beautiful words For Abdul Salam Zaeef, a former senior Taliban official who could play an important role in negotiating a peace deal to end violence in Afghanistan, Obamas speech consisted of sweet and beautiful words. But they were not enough. Wadir Safi, a professor of law and political science at Kabul University, said the change in tone from the leader of the US was hugely welcome, hailing it as the best speech ever given by an American president. He wants to eliminate the hatred in the Islamic world that existed under President Bush. I saw a respect in Obamas speech towards Islam and the Islamic world that we had not seen before. Safi added that Obamas strong rejection of the idea that the US wants a permanent military presence in Afghanistan would reassure Russia, Islamabad, Tehran and other regional players suspicious about American intentions. But Ghulam Nadir, a literary student at the same university, said there was nothing the speech could do to change the perception among many Afghans that the US was hellbent on long-term occupation. They are not here to help us, they are here for their own interests and will leave us whenever they want. If Obama was serious about a peace process he would not have sent more troops. He said the only way to solve the problem of extremism was for the US to withdraw support from Israel. James Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute in Washington, DC, called the speech transformative. But he said the breadth of the presidents vision could dilute the impact at home. I think it was lost on this side of the ocean, he said. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point, he said. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another; and to seek common ground. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., called it a blunt, honest speech. We know that one impressive speech will not erase years of mistrust and missed opportunities just as Dr. Kings 'I Have A Dream speech did not complete the civil rights movement, he said. Deeds will have to follow words. US President Barack Obamas landmark speech to Muslims on Thursday signals no real shift in US policy in the Arab world despite its conciliatory tone, a Hezbollah official said. The Palestinian Authority on Thursday hailed Obamas speech to the Muslim world in which he reiterated his support of a Palestinian state as a good beginning. The Israeli government, in a statement, said: We share President Obamas hope that the American effort heralds the beginning of a new era that will bring about an end to the conflict and lead to Arab recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, living in peace and security in the Middle East.