WASHINGTON U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time in six months on Monday to discuss the long-stalled Middle East peace process, the White House said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement that Obama called Abbas and told him the United States was committed to Middle East peace. He told Abbas both sides need to reinforce the efforts that have brought an end to recent fighting and to avoid provocative actions.
In the first conversation between Obama and Abbas since they met in New York in September 2011, Carney said Obama praised recent efforts by Jordan's King Abdullah to advance direct discussions between Israel and the Palestinians.
Talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have been overshadowed by the debate between Israel and Washington over a possible military strike on Iran due to Tehran's nuclear program.
The Palestinians have struggled to make their voice heard in recent months as world attention has shifted to the U.S. presidential elections, the escalating violence in Syria and Iran's nuclear program.
Abbas, as a condition for negotiations, has demanded that Israel agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state on all lands occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to accept that request and has balked at the Palestinians' demands to freeze Israeli settlement activities on lands the Palestinians want for a future state.
(Reporting by Deborah Charles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)