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Obama praises Netanyahu, Abbas

Agence France-Presse
President Obama holds phone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas after both sent negotiators back to the negotiating table

TALKING PEACE. US Secretary of State Kerry (center-L) hosts dinner for the Middle East Peace Process Talks, at the Department of State with Israeli Mr. Isaac Molho (right rear) , Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (right 2nd from end) and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat (3rd), and Palestanian Dr. Shtayyeh (lower right corner) in the Thomas Jefferson Room of the US Department of State July 29, 2013, in Washington, DC. The parties meet again July 30th, 2013 here. Photo by AFP/Paul J. Richards

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (UPDATED)- US President Barack Obama on Thursday, August 1, praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for their leadership in agreeing to resume peace talks, the White House said.

In separate statements with nearly identical wording following phone calls with the two men, Obama praised their “leadership and courage” in sending negotiators back to the table this week in Washington for the first time in three years.

Obama, who had already hailed the “courage” of both sides when he met with the negotiators at the White House on Tuesday, noted, in the statement about his call with Netanyahu that “the parties have much work to do in the days and months ahead.”

The president reaffirmed he would support — and work closely with — the two groups in their efforts to achieve peace, but only in the statement about his call with Abbas did he mention a peace “based on the two state solution.”

The negotiators from Israel and the Palestinian Authority met in Washington on Monday, July 29, embarking on talks they hope will lead to an agreement within nine months.

The Obama administration’s last foray into the intractable Arab-Israeli conflict ended in failure, when talks launched in September 2010 collapsed just weeks later over continued Israeli settlement building.

Now, after months of shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry has persuaded the two sides to meet for nine months to try to resolve one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

The latest effort has been met with skepticism, as Israel and the Palestinians remain deeply divided over the so-called “final status” issues that have bedeviled negotiators for two decades.

These include Jerusalem — claimed as a capital by both sides — the borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. – Rappler.com