WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama urged the Palestinians to move to direct negotiations as soon as possible, in a phone call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday.

Obama said the two sides needed to “negotiate seriously and in good faith,” and stressed his intention “to hold both sides accountable for actions that undermine trust during the talks,” according to a statement put out by the White House following the call.

The statement also noted that Obama looked forward to hosting Abbas at the White House in the near feature, making official a meeting reported for weeks to be in the works.

The administration has long sought direct negotiations between the two sides, but Obama nevertheless hailed the start of indirect talks and congratulated Abbas upon their launch. He also praised Abbas for reaching out to the Israeli people in a recent interview on Israeli television, and called on the Palestinian leader to do “everything he can” to prevent acts of incitement and delegitimization of Israel.

Joining Obama in welcoming the start of indirect talks was the Quartet, which is made up of the US, EU, UN and Russia.

The group, meeting in New York on Tuesday, put out a statement calling the new discussions “a significant step toward direct, bilateral negotiations and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”

The Quartet also called for “good faith” talks and urged “all concerned to promote an atmosphere conducive to the talks and to act on the basis of
previous agreements and obligations.”