News / Middle East

Obama Vows to Hold Israel, Palestinians 'Accountable' During Indirect Talks

The White House says President Barack Obama has vowed to hold Israel and the Palestinian Authority "accountable" for any actions that "undermine trust" during a new round of indirect peace talks.

A White House statement says Mr. Obama made that comment in a phone call Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  Mr. Obama urged both parties to negotiate seriously and move from U.S.-mediated proximity talks to direct negotiations "as soon as possible."

U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell mediated a first round of talks that concluded Sunday, ending a 17-month break in negotiations.  He is expected to continue shuttling between Israeli officials in Jerusalem and Palestinian officials in Ramallah for a period of four months.

The White House says Mr. Obama also urged the Palestinian president to do everything he can to prevent acts of incitement against Israel.

The U.S. statement says Mr. Obama also expressed appreciation for Mr. Abbas' outreach to the Israeli people during the Palestinian leader's recent appearance on Israeli television.

The White House says Mr. Obama looks forward to receiving Mr. Abbas at the White House soon.  It did not specify a date for such a visit.

In a related development, the international Quartet of Mideast peace mediators also welcomed the start of Israeli-Palestinian indirect talks.  The quartet has the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

The quartet called the proximity talks a significant step toward "direct bilateral negotiations."  It said those negotiations should lead to a comprehensive Mideast peace based on the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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