2 Sep 2010

Obama urges leaders to work toward peace deal

4:24 pm on 2 September 2010

President Barack Obama has urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders not to let the chance for peace slip away as he opened a United-States sponsored summit to relaunch direct talks.

The first face-to-face negotiations in 20 months are to take place at the White House on Thursday, in the shadow of fresh West Bank shooting attacks and a persistent deadlock over Jewish settlements, Reuters reports.

Mr Obama has already held one-on-one talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

He made a commitment to try to forge within a year a deal on Palestinian statehood.

Israel is resisting any formal extension of a partial freeze on construction in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Mr Abbas has threatened to pull out of the dialogue if building resumes after the expiration of the moratorium on 26 September.

Earlier, Mr Obama condemned an ambush by the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas that killed four Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.

And in an attack coinciding with the inauguration of the summit, suspected Palestinian gunmen wounded two Israelis in the West Bank.

Mr Netanhyahu said Israel will fight those who threaten its sovereignty.