News / Middle East

Obama, Mideast Leaders Begin Peace Talks


Kent Klein

At the start of new Middle East peace talks, U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Tuesday's deadly shooting near the West Bank town of Hebron.  Both leaders said Wednesday that they are determined that these talks succeed.

After meeting with the Israeli prime minister, President Barack Obama called this week's shooting a "senseless slaughter" by "extremists and rejectionists" who are trying to derail the peace process.

"The United States is going to be unwavering in its support of Israel's security, and we are going to push back against these kinds of terrorist activities," said President Obama.

A Palestinian gunman opened fire on an Israeli vehicle on Tuesday, killing four passengers.  The militant group Hamas has claimed responsibility.

Hamas is not a part of these peace talks.  Mr. Obama said the faction will not be allowed to stand in the way of peace.

"The message should go out to Hamas, and everybody else who is taking credit for these heinous crimes, that this is not going to stop us from not only ensuring a secure Israel, but also securing a longer-lasting peace in which people throughout the region can take a different course," Obama added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Hebron killings reveal the nature of those who oppose the peace process.

"Four innocent people were gunned down and seven new orphans were added by people who have no respect for human life and trample human rights into the dust and butcher everything that they oppose," said Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The Israeli leader said his meeting with President Obama was a good start to this round of discussions.

"The talks that we had, which were indeed open, productive, serious in the quest for peace, also centered around the need to have security arrangements that are able to roll back this kind of terror and other threats to Israel's security," added Netanyahu.

Mr. Netanyahu was the first of four Middle Eastern leaders to meet one-on-one with Mr. Obama.

Next on President Obama's agenda was a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who Mr. Obama said also condemned the attack in Hebron.

The president is scheduled to meet individually with Jordan's King Abdullah and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.  The five leaders are expected to conclude the day with a dinner at the White House.

On Thursday, President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu are scheduled to hold a day of meetings hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

These will be the first direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians since late 2008.  The goal of the discussions is to reach agreement within one year on the major issues leading to a Palestinian state and security for Israel.

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