Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that the United States must be a "strong arbitrator" in pushing the peace process and on the issue of Jewish settlements, a day after Israeli-Palestinian negotiations got off to a shaky start. Israeli and Palestinian officials held their first formal negotiating session in seven years on Wednesday, but the session was marred by heated complaints from both sides. Palestinian officials denounced Israel's announcement the week before that it would build new homes in the Har Homa neighborhood of east Jerusalem. Abbas, who met in Amman with Jordan's King Abdullah II, said a planned visit by US President George W. Bush to the Middle East early next year "is proof of his seriousness and commitment to achieve peace" between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Abbas said the United States "must be a strong arbitrator" especially when it comes to issues like settlements and pushing the peace process forward, according to a palace statement. Both Abdullah and Abbas said that Israel's announcement to build settlements in East Jerusalem is "a flagrant violation to the principles of peace," the statement said. Abdullah called on the international community to support the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations during the upcoming period and according to a time limit to reach a political settlement before the end of the year. The Palestinian president briefed Abdullah on Wednesday's meeting with the Israelis, saying the Palestinians are committed to make the negotiations a success. Earlier Thursday, Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said that the plans for construction were approved 10 years ago and the authorization of the latest plan was merely a technical matter that the government was not involved in.