Last updated: 1 August, 2013

Obama praises Netanyahu and Abbas for “leadership and courage”

US President Barack Obama on Thursday praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for their leadership in agreeing to resume peace talks, the White House said.

In separate statements with very similar wording following phone calls with the two men, Obama praised their “leadership and courage” in sending negotiators back to the table this week in Washington for the first time in three years.

Obama, who had already hailed the “courage” of both sides when he met with the negotiators at the White House on Tuesday, noted, in the statement about his call with Netanyahu that “the parties have much work to do in the days and months ahead.”

The president reaffirmed he would support — and work closely with — the two groups in their efforts to achieve peace, but only in the statement about his call with Abbas did he mention a peace “based on the two state solution.”

The negotiators from Israel and the Palestinian Authority met in Washington on Monday, embarking on talks they hope will lead to an agreement within nine months.

The Obama administration’s last foray into the intractable Arab-Israeli conflict ended in failure, when talks launched in September 2010 collapsed just weeks later over continued Israeli settlement building.

Now, after months of shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry has persuaded the two sides to meet for nine months to try to resolve one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

The latest effort has been met with skepticism, as Israel and the Palestinians remain deeply divided over the so-called “final status” issues that have bedeviled negotiators for two decades.

These include Jerusalem — claimed as a capital by both sides — the borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.