US President Opens Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

World | September 2, 2010, Thursday // 12:54
Bulgaria: US President Opens Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), US President Barack Obama (C), and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R). Photo by EPA/BGNES

The US President Barack Obama has urged the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to not let the opportunity for achieving a peace agreement "slip away".

"This moment of opportunity may not soon come again," Obama said Wednesday at the White House, on the eve of the first direct negotiations between the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

On Tuesday, four Israeli settlers, including a pregnant woman, were shot dead by a gunman near the West Bank city of Hebron, by the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and opposes peace talks with Israel, the BBC reported.

In another attack carried out Wednesday, two Israeli soldiers were shot and wounded near the Jewish settlement of Kochav Hashahar.

Obama has described the attacks as "senseless slaughter", according to the BBC.

Netanyahu, however, has referred to Abbas as his "partner in peace" and has stated that the attacks would not "block our path to peace".

"Our goal is to forge a secure and durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians," he said.

On his part, Abbad also condemned the attacks on the Israelis and called upon ending the bloodshed.

Obama has praised the will for negotiation by the two leaders, "who I believe want peace", bur has said that the US could not impose peace on the two countries.

The peace talks are supposed to lead to an agreement between the two countries within a year.

Among the uncleared and extremely contentious issues that will be coming up is the building of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Netanyahu has failed to commit to a stopping of settlement, something that Abbas sees as a precondition for the achievement of any agreement.

Another difficult issue is whether Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and is in tense relations with Abbas, will recognize the results of negotiations. This far Hamas representatives have not been invited, although given the internal divisions in the Palestinian Authority some consider that Abbas cannot be effectively representative of all Palestinians.

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Tags: Israel, Israeli, Palestine, Palestinian, US, Barack Obama, Mahmoud Abbas, Benjamin Netanyahu, peace, attacks, Gaza Strip, Hamas
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