Obama to Abbas: Peace With Israel Will Require Risks

U.S. president meets his Palestinian counterpart at the White House; Abbas reiterates demand for release of Palestinian prisoners by the end of the month.

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U.S. President Barack Obama met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Monday to discuss the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.

At the beginning of the meeting, Obama said that everyone understands what the outlines of a peace deal would look like. "Any deal would involve a territorial compromise on both sides based on 1967 lines, with mutually agreed-upon swaps that would ensure Israel was secure but also that the Palestinians have a sovereign state," Obama said. The U.S. President added that reaching a peace deal would be very hard and challenging. "We're going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we are able to move it forward and I hope we will see progress in the coming days and weeks."

The U.S. president met with his Palestinian counterpart shortly after announcing sanctions against high-ranking Russian officials over the crisis in Crimea.

Obama began the meeting with praise for Abbas, saying the Palestinian president has "consistently denounced violence." He added that he hopes to see progress in peace talks over the coming weeks.

Abbas thanked Obama for U.S. economic and political support for "the state of Palestine." He stressed that the Palestinians "don't have any time to waste. Time is not on our side."

Abbas also said that the Palestinians aspire to an independent state along the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as a just and agreed upon solution to the refugee problem.

Abbas referred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and said that the PLO had already recognized Israel twice in the past. "Since 1988 we've been extending our hand to our Israeli neighbors so that we can reach a fair and lasting peace," Abbas said. "In 1998 we recognized international resolutions and this was a very courageous step and the part of the Palestinian leadership and in 1993 we recognized the State of Israel."

Abbas called on Israel to stand by the understandings reached when the peace talks were launched in July 2013, and release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners by the end of the month. "Because this will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of these efforts to achieve peace," Abbas said.

Ahead of the meeting in Washington, Fatah officials organized several marches as a show of strength and support for Abbas in Ramallah, El Bireh, Bethlehem and Nablus.

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) at the White House in Washington March 17, 2014.Credit: Reuters

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