Obama to Netanyahu: Extend building freeze amid talks

US president pledges to keep talks from breaking down, says alternative is status quo that puts both sides, US, at risk.

Obama hand in air, flag in background 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Obama hand in air, flag in background 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
WASHINGTON  — US President Barack Obama said at a White House news conference Friday that he has urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to extend the settlement moratorium so long as the talks begun this month are bearing fruit.
Obama pledged to help keep fast-track peace talks from breaking down, and said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas knows "the window for creating a Palestinian state is closing."
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Obama dined with both leaders at the White House last week to inaugurate the latest attempt to end the conflict.
He said he is certain the negotiations will be difficult, but he said the leaders know they need a deal, and that they need one another.
"That doesn't mean it's going to work," Obama said. "Ultimately, it's going to be up to them. We can facilitate, we can encourage, we can tell them that we will stand behind them."
The talks are "a risk worth taking," Obama said, "because letting the four-decade conflict fester makes everyone less safe."
"Israel is motivated by its own desire for stability and secure borders, and the Palestinians by the knowledge that their goal of an independent homeland could be eclipsed by time and politics," Obama suggested.
Obama said the United States will stay involved, and that includes a visit to the region by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next week.