Agence France Presse (AFP)
January 14, 2010 - 1:00am

RAMALLAH, West Bank — US President Barack Obama's national security adviser James Jones held talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders on Thursday aimed at furthering US-led peace efforts.

"Jones confirmed Obama's determination to arrive at a comprehensive peace in the Middle East despite the difficulties, and said the key to peace in the region is to resolve the Palestinian issue," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP after Jones met president Mahmud Abbas.

The US envoy later met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks that "focused on jump-starting the peace process with the Palestinians and regional security threats," an Israeli government statement said.

Jones did not speak to reporters during the regional tour, which has also taken him to Saudi Arabia and comes after months of US-led peace efforts.

Obama has been struggling to get the two sides back to the negotiating table since he assumed office nearly a year ago but has thus far failed to get Israel to completely halt settlements or secure Arab concessions to the Jewish state.

The Palestinians have said they will not resume talks -- suspended a year ago during Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza -- until Israel halts all settlement building in the occupied territories.

Israel has enacted a 10-month moratorium on new settlement projects but has excluded mostly Arab east Jerusalem, public buildings and projects already under way. The Palestinians have rejected the move as insufficient.


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