U.S. President Obama called Thursday for Palestinian leaders to resume peace talks with Israel, despite ongoing Israeli settlement building.
Obama, in Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said the United States "is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine."
"We will continue to look for steps that both Israelis and Palestinians can take to build the trust and the confidence upon lasting peace will depend," he said at a news conference with Abbas. "We cannot give up on the search for peace. Too much is at stake."
Obama called for direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. "There is no shortcut to a sustainable solution," he said.
"The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it," Obama said. "Palestinians deserve a state of their own."
Abbas greeted Obama when he arrived in Ramallah after flying six miles from Jerusalem by helicopter, Haaretz reported.
Palestinian merchants crowded around television sets to watch Obama's arrival, though some told Haaretz they believed he has nothing to offer them.
"The United States does not care about us. What's new under the sun?" asked T-shirt shop owner Aladdin Hussein.
More than 100 activists set up a protest camp in the sensitive E1 area, where Netanyahu's government said last year it planned to build settlements in defiance of international condemnation that the construction would hurt chances of establishing a Palestinian state.
Obama's arrival in Ramallah came hours after rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli border city of Sderot.
Following the news conference, the U.S. president visited a youth center with P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Events included a dance performance and a roundtable discussion with Palestinian youth.
On returning to Jerusalem, Obama was to deliver the keynote speech of his visit to an invited audience of Israeli university students at the International Convention Center, whose main auditorium seats more than 3,000.
Media and students were lined up outside the convention center before noon, about 5 hours before Obama was to deliver his speech, Haaretz reported.
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