President Barack Obama spent time Tuesday talking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office, where the two leaders made a show of unity for the cameras and said some vaguely hopeful things about the Mideast peace process. — KA


US President Barack Obama has urged the Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct peace talks before a settlement freeze expires in September.

He spoke after Oval Office talks with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it was “high time” for direct talks.

The two leaders also played down any suggestion of a rift between the US and Israel, with Mr Obama saying the bond was “unbreakable”.

Mr Obama praised Israel for announcing it would ease its Gaza Strip blockade.

The US president said he hoped direct peace talks would resume “well before” Israel’s 10-month moratorium on building new settlements in the West Bank expired at the end of September.

The Israeli prime minister has been under pressure from his right-wing coalition not to cave in to US calls to extend the freeze.

“I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he is willing to take risks for peace,” said Mr Obama.

Mr Netanyahu said steps were being taken in the coming days and weeks to further the peace process, but he gave no further details.

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