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In Washington, US President Barack Obama is hosting the first direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in two years. They come amid fresh violence on the West Bank and a persistent deadlock over Jewish settlements. But, leaders say, they are hopeful of a breakthrough.
Both sides are to get down to business on Thursday. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will host the State Department talks, with opening statements expected around 1400 GMT. US Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell will give a public briefing after talks conclude to explain what has been accomplished.
Speaking with the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians, President Obama says he is cautiously hopeful.
US President Barack Obama said, "...we must ask, do we have the wisdom and the courage to walk the path of peace?"
In return, each of the leaders answered positively, but with qualifications.
Earlier, Obama had met with each leader individually, to lay the final groundwork for negotiations. The mood appeared upbeat and pleasant as the leaders commenced the talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanahu said, "President Abbas, you are my partner in peace, and it is up to us, with the help of our friends, to conclude the agonizing conflict between our peoples and to afford them a new beginning..."
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said, "We will spare no effort, and we'll work diligently and tirelessly to ensure that these negotiations achieve their goals and objectives in dealing with all of the issues - Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, security, water, as well as the release of all our prisoners, in order to achieve peace that the people of our area are looking for."
Both of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders spoke hopefully of chances for a breakthrough within the one-year timeframe set by Obama, but they also made plain that their own national interests must be satisfied.