Obama, Olmert agree on need to advance peace process

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday and both spoke about the need to press ahead with the peace process with the Palestinians, Olmert’s office said.

The current peace talks, launched nearly a year ago at a conference sponsored by U.S. President George W. Bush, have been bogged down from the start by violence, and bitter disputes over Jewish settlement building and the future of Jerusalem.

The White House said on Thursday that an agreement was unlikely to be reached between the sides before Bush leaves office in January.

In a statement, Olmert’s office said the prime minister and Obama “both spoke about the need to continue to advance the peace process, and this, while safeguarding the security of Israel.”

The statement said Obama and Olmert also “spoke about the long friendship between the United States and Israel and the need to preserve and strengthen this friendship.”

The statement provided no other details about the conversation, the first between the two leaders since Obama’s victory in the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday.

Reporting by Adam Entous; Editing by Richard Williams