Abbas: PA, America 'partners' in pursuit of peace

Palestinian Authority president thanks US counterpart for commitment, saying the two are partners in pursuing peace; Obama says he will not give up on a two state solution, "no matter how hard it is."

PA President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama (photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama
(photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
America and the Palestinian Authority are "partners in pursuit to just peace that ends occupation and war," said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday.
Speaking at a joint press conference held in Ramallah with his American counterpart US President Barack Obama, Abbas said that Palestinian officials "had good talks with his excellency President [Barack] Obama."
He added that the two discussed the risks that the continuity of settlement building contained for the future of his country.
He thanked the president for US commitment to the Palestinian cause and for the support to the PA Treasury. "I wish to thank the President [Obama] for his commitment to provide support to the Palestinian people," he said.
"We hope to exercise normal life over the free state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital," Abbas reiterated.
In response, Obama said he remained committed to the creation of an "independent, viable and contiguous" Palestinian state, but said achieving that goal would not be easy.
Obama said he will not give up on peace between Israelis and Palestinians, "no matter how hard it is."
"The core issue right now is how do we get sovereignty for the Palestinian people and security for Israeli people," he told reporters following almost two hours of talks with Abbas.
He insisted on his commitment to realizing a vision of two states, which he said is in the best interest of Palestinians, Israelis, the US, and the entire world. He described a future with a "Palestinian state in the homeland of the Palestinian people alongside the Jewish state of Israel."
He described recent protests that have erupted in the West Bank in anticipation of his visit as an "understanding of the moral force of non-violence." He added that the Palestinian people have the "talent, drive, and courage to succeed in own there own state."
"I am confident we can arrive at a destination to advance a vision of two nations, neighbors, having peace, Israelis and Palestinians," he said.
He compared young Palestinians and Israelis to his own children and the difficulties they face, stressing a need for a better future, "not defined by conflict."
Speaking on the subject of settlements in the West Bank, Obama said, "we don't consider settlement activity constructive or can promote peace. Israeli politics is complex,not going to be solved overnight."
Obama said settlements cannot advance the cause of peace, but added that the Palestinians must not use settlements as an excuse not to talk.
"That's not to say settlements aren't important. That's to say if we solve those two problems, the settlement issue will be resolved," he added.
Abbas responded to say it is not only a Palestinian perspective that settlements are illegal, but that it is a "global perspective."
"Change takes time, but it is possible," said Obama.
US-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2010 over the issue of Jewish settlements and Abbas repeated on Thursday that he wanted to see construction halted on land seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Obama offered no new proposals on how to revive talks, but said his new Secretary of State John Kerry would spend a significant amount of time trying to narrow the differences between the two sides as Washington seeks to move them back to negotiations.
In a 2009 speech in Cairo, Obama said the United States did not "accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements" and pressed openly for a freeze on settlement activity in talks with Netanyahu early in his first term.More recently, however, he has largely avoided any direct mention of settlements and has instead urged both parties to refrain from "unilateral" moves, referring to settlement expansion and Palestinian statehood bids at the United Nations.
Reuters contributed to this report.