Obama tells Abbas risks for peace are needed

2014-03-17 20:49
(Saul Loeb, AFP)

(Saul Loeb, AFP)

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Washington - US President Barack Obama on Monday told Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas that both he and Israeli leaders must make tough political decisions and take "risks" for peace.

Meeting Obama at the White House, Abbas said a scheduled Israeli release of a fourth tranche of Palestinian prisoners by 29 March would show how serious Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was about extending peace talks.

"As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when he was here just a few weeks ago, I believe that now is the time... to embrace this opportunity," Obama said as he met Abbas in the Oval Office.

"It is very hard, very challenging. We are going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we able to move forward," Obama said.

The US leader was seeking to secure Abbas's agreement on a US framework to extend peace talks, which have so far lasted seven months but not made tangible progress, past an end-of April deadline.

He said that everyone already understood the shape of an "elusive" peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, saying it would be based on 1967 lines with mutual land swaps.

Abbas did not directly address the Israeli government's demand for the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a "Jewish" state.

He noted, through a translator, that the Palestinians had recognised Israel's legitimacy in 1988 and in "1993 we recognised the state of Israel".

Abbas also noted the agreement that the Palestinians have with Israel on the release of a fourth batch of prisoners by 29 March.

"This will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of the Israelis on the peace process."

Israeli ministers said last week that they would have difficulty approving the release if agreement was not reached to extend the peace talks.

Israel committed to the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in four tranches when talks were launched in July.

It has so far released 78 of those in three batches, with Palestinians demanding the fourth - scheduled for later this month - also include Arab Israelis.

Read more on:    mahmoud abbas  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  barack obama  |  israel  |  us  |  palestine
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