Obama hails 'courage' of Israelis, Palestinians
US President Barack Obama praised the "courage" of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators when he met with them Tuesday after the relaunch of direct peace talks frozen for three years.
"The president used this opportunity to convey his appreciation to both sides for the leadership and courage they have shown in coming to the table," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Obama also expressed his "personal support for final-status negotiation," Carney said, while agreeing with the two parties to keep the details of the negotiations under wraps.
"All sides agree that it would be most conducive to this process to not read out details of meetings," Carney said. "We're going to abide by that."
The president met with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and lead Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat the day after the two broke bread at a dinner marking the end of the daily fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Obama had vowed to relaunch peace talks upon taking office in 2009, but after months of intense diplomacy was only able to convince the two sides to meet for a period of weeks in September 2010 before the talks collapsed.
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 bedevilled 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.