UN chief 'very encouraged' by Mideast peace talks

VIENNA— The UN secretary-general expressed optimism Thursday about the first direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in nearly two years, while acknowledging the process could prove "very difficult."
Ban Ki-moon called on both sides to show sincerity, flexibility and pragmatism as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were to meet in Washington later Thursday.
"I am very encouraged and happy by these direct talks for (the) Middle East peace process," Ban told reporters after a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger.