Middle East leaders have spoken of their hopes and aspirations ahead of planned peace talks and after a meeting with Barack Obama.
At the White House, the US President was flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
To everyone involved in the negotiations, from the US leader, there was a challenge.
“We must ask: ‘do we have the wisdom and the courage to walk the path of peace?’” he asked.
Earlier, Obama condemned the killing of four Israelis in the West Bank on Tuesday. Two more were wounded by gunfire on Wednesday night. Netanyahu emphasised that such incidents will not derail the search for peace.
“I will not let the terrorists block our path to peace but, as these events underscore once again, that peace must be anchored in security,” he stressed.
Abbas also condemned the latest attacks on Israelis. He called for an end to Israel’s occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“This is the moment to have the independent Palestinian state, to be established nearby an Israeli state. It is the moment to stop the violence in the Middle East,” he said.
The leaders were speaking on the eve of the first direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in 20 months, which President Obama said were “intended to resolve all final status issues”.