BEIJING, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- Many countries and international organizations have welcomed the restored Palestine-Israel direct talks, but over a dozen Palestinian militant groups cast a shadow by vowing to step up attacks on Israeli targets.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday resumed direct talks in Washington after a 20-month hiatus.
The talks, hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are aimed at ending a six-decade conflict between the two sides within a year.
Clinton said, "You each have taken an important step toward freeing your peoples from the shackles of a history we cannot change and moving toward a future of peace and dignity that only you can create."
Direct negotiations have been stalled since 2008 after Israeli forces raided the devastated Gaza Strip to halt rocket attacks from the enclave ruled by the militant Hamas movement.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his pleasure about the restarted peace talks, appealing for Palestine and Israel to strengthen their cooperation to reduce tensions.
But he also pointed out the Mideast peace process isn't smooth and all sides must work hard, warning some groups are trying to stymie the process.
European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek both welcomed the resumption of the direct talks.
The EU expressed its intention to give its full support throughout the whole negotiation process, which could allow the establishment of a peaceful cohabitation between the two states.
"The outcome will be crucial not just for the parties, but for the whole region and beyond," said Ashton.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy held phone talks with his U.S.counterpart Barack Obama to discuss the restarted Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
"U.S. President Barack Obama called this afternoon (Thursday) the President of the Republic to inform him of the progress of discussions started yesterday in Washington as part of the resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians," Sarkozy's office said in a statement.
Sarkozy reiterated Paris' support to Washington's efforts to push further the stalled peace talks, unveiling "the intention to take strong initiatives to help them set a fair, balance and sustainable peace settlement."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the direct talks and called on Palestinian and Israeli leaders to show "perseverance, commitment and courage" in pursuit of peace.
Reiterating Britain stood ready to "do everything we can to buttress those talks," the foreign secretary said "the parties involved will need to show commitment and courage to achieve the lasting peace that both sides deserve and we support them fully in that effort."
China also said it welcomed the direct negotiations, urging a serious and practical manner from both sides.
"We hope the two parties seize the opportunity of the peace talks to achieve positive results at an early date," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
However, the negotiations were shrouded in a recent bloody killing of four Israelis and Palestine militant groups' fresh pledge to launch more attacks against Israeli targets.
On Tuesday, a Hamas gunman shot dead four Israelis including a pregnant woman near the West Bank city of Hebron, in a clear attempt to sour the atmosphere for the imminent peace talks.
More than a dozen Palestinian militant groups had vowed to step up joint and separate attacks on Israeli targets to foil the peace negotiations in Washington.
"The factions agreed that all means are open to the Palestinian resistance to deal with Israel in the coming phase," Abu Obaida, spokesman for the Hamas armed wing, read a statement of the Gaza-based groups.
The armed groups blamed the Palestinian leadership for accepting the negotiations without an Israeli commitment to stopping Jewish settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories.
On Aug. 30, the factions met "and agreed to bring the Palestinian resistance into an advanced phase of high-level coordination for effective work against Israel," Obaida said.
"The escalation comes to reject all shameful projects that include dangerous concessions and to stand against all conspiracies that target the Palestinian rights through playful negotiations," he claimed.
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