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Obama Urges Israel, Palestinians to Work Harder for Peace


U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do more to re-start peace talks. Mr. Obama spoke Tuesday before his first three-way meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

President Obama says despite years of obstacles and mistrust, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders must find a way to move the stalled peace process forward.

"Permanent status negotiations must begin and, begin soon," he said. "And more importantly, we must give those negotiations the opportunity to succeed."

Mr. Obama spoke after separate meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which he called "frank and productive." The president said both leaders will need to end delays and make sacrifices to revive the peace talks that broke off in 2008.

"Simply put, it is past time to talk about starting negotiations. It is time to move forward," he said. "It is time to show the flexibility and common sense and sense of compromise that are necessary to achieve our goals."

No breakthroughs took place as the three leaders met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session in New York. But U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell says there are reasons for optimism.

"Both parties share the goal of a two-state solution and of comprehensive peace. And both parties seek the re-launch of negotiations as soon as possible, although there are differences between them on how to proceed," said Mitchell.

Mr. Obama says he is giving Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton orders to take steps to advance the peace efforts.

"Senator Mitchell will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators next week. I have asked the prime minister and the president to continue these intensive discussions by sending their teams back to Washington next week," said Mr. Obama. "And I have asked the secretary of state to report to me on the status of these negotiations in mid-October."

President Obama acknowledged that progress has been made toward re-starting negotiations, but he said much more is needed.

"Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security, but they need to do more to stop incitement and to move forward with negotiations," he continued. "Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians, and have discussed important steps to restrain settlement activity. But they need to translate these discussions into real action, on this and other issues."

While in New York, Mr. Obama also addressed a high-level summit on climate change, called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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