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US urges renewed Mideast peace effort in 2013

Palestinians wave their flag as they celebrate new year's eve in Ramallah on December 31, 2012
Palestinians wave their flag as they celebrate new year's eve in Ramallah on December 31, 2012. The United States Wednesday urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume direct talks in 2013 and move toward peace.

The United States Wednesday urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume direct talks in 2013 and move toward peace.

"As we turn the calendar to 2013... now is the time for leaders on both sides to display real leadership, to focus on the work that's necessary to return to direct negotiations," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

The US urged "both sides to clearly demonstrate that they are serious about achieving two states living side by side in peace and security," she said, calling on both sides to halt any "counter-productive unilateral actions."

With President Barack Obama starting his second White House term this month and upcoming elections in Israel the two sides are heading into a particularly important period, she stressed.

"We have an environment that was quite fraught and quite difficult at the end of 2012, so the question is whether we can make a fresh start in 2013, and that's going to require restraint on all sides," Nuland said.

"We want 2013 to be a better year, we really do."

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians insisting on a settlement freeze before returning to the negotiating table and the Israelis insisting there be no preconditions.

But the Obama administration has also been highly criticized by some for putting efforts to try to reach an Middle East peace deal on the back-burner.

Some analysts say that as Obama starts his second term in office, he might make a renewed push for a peace accord, which has eluded successive American administrations for decades.