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Obama tells Abbas he must take 'risks' for peace with Israel

US President Barack Obama has told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas he must take risks to forge peace with Israel. The two held talks in the White House on US-brokered Middle East peace negotiations.

Obama on Monday said Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must be prepared to make difficult political decisions and take "risks" in order for peace talks, which resumed in July of last year, to move forward.

"We remain convinced there is an opportunity," Obama told reporters after the meeting.

He said he hoped progress would be made in reaching a "framework" deal in the coming weeks that would extend the US-led talks beyond the current April deadline.

Sitting beside Obama at the Oval Office, Abbas warned that with the deadline approaching time "is not on our side."

He urged Netanyahu to push ahead with the planned release of a final group of Palestinian prisioners to illustrate his committment to negotiations.

"We are hopeful that the fourth batch will be released by the 29th of March because this would give a very solid impression" about taking steps toward peace, he said.

Obama

held a similar meeting with Netanyahu

two weeks ago in which he also emphasized the "tough decisions" which would need to be made.

"It's my belief that ultimately it is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine, with people living side-by-side in peace and security. But it's difficult and it requires compromise on all sides," Obama said.

ccp/rc (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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