Obama: Toughest work ahead in Mideast talks

AP News
Posted: Jul 29, 2013 1:40 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says the relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is a promising step forward. But he adds that the most difficult work is yet to come.

With senior Israeli and Palestinian negotiators en route to Washington, Obama says he hopes both parties will approach negotiations with good faith, determination and sustained focus. He's praising Secretary of State John Kerry for bringing the parties together and former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk for agreeing to shepherd the talks.

Obama says he saw the profound desire Palestinians and Israelis both have for peace when he visited the region in March.

Obama and Kerry will meet Monday afternoon before the talks get underway in the evening.

The White House is also welcoming the Israeli Cabinet's decision Sunday to free 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners in four stages, linked to progress in talks. The release was part of an agreement Kerry brokered bring the sides back to the table.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the U.S. sees that move as a positive step. He says it shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's interest in making tough, courageous decision to move the process forward.