President Barack Obama praised the recent start of indirect peace talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders during a phone call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, the White House said.
According to the White House, Obama and Abbas discussed the need to move from proximity talks to direct negotiations in order to reach agreement on permanent status issues "as soon as possible."
The first round of talks began Sunday after the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee approved
initiating the negotiations after a three-hour meeting in Ramallah in the West Bank a day earlier.
U.S. special envoy George Mitchell is brokering the talks.
In the Tuesday phone call, the White House said, Obama "reiterated his strong support for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state living in peace and security with Israel" - a crucial issue for the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, the Middle East Quartet - made up of representatives from the United Nations, European Union, Russian Federation and the United States - also issued a statement Tuesday in support of the proximity talks, calling them "a significant step toward direct, bilateral negotiations and comprehensive peace in the Middle East."
"The Quartet calls on the parties to pursue these talks in good faith and offers its support for their efforts," the statement said.
The last round of peace talks broke down in December 2008 over Israel's three-week military offensive against Hamas in Gaza.