By JULIE PACE and MATTHEW LEE
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — President Barack Obama said Thursday he is not giving up on stalled peace talks in the Mideast but that continued Israeli settlement-building in West Bank is not advancing the cause.
The president, appearing at a news conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, said Palestinians deserve an independent and sovereign state and an end to occupation by Israel. He said the prospect of a contiguous Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state of Israel continues to exist if negotiations would restart.
“I absolutely believe that it is still possible, but I think it is very difficult,” Obama said. He also said it would be helpful if rockets weren’t still being launched into Israel.
Abbas said he told the American leader that peace with Israel should not be achieved through violence, occupation, settlements, arrests or denial of refugee rights.