With a key deadline looming, President Obama today urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept guidelines for new Mideast peace talks.
"Now is the time for not just the leaders of both sides but also the peoples of both sides to embrace this opportunity for peace," the president told reporters ahead of his Oval Office meeting with Abbas.
Obama admitted that an agreement is an "elusive goal," saying "it's very hard. It's very challenging.
"We remain convinced that there is an opportunity," he said. "We're going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we're able to move it forward. And my hope is that we can continue to see progress in the coming days and weeks."
Obama said everyone understands what the outlines of a peace deal would look like, "involving a territorial compromise on both sides based on '67 lines with mutually agreed-upon swaps that would ensure that Israel was secure, but would also ensure the Palestinians have a sovereign state in which they can achieve the aspirations that they've held for so long."
Today's meeting comes as the clock is ticking toward the U.S.-imposed deadline for completing a "framework" for peace talks by the end of April.
"We don't have any time to waste," Abbas said. "Time is not on our side, especially given the very difficult situation that the Middle East is experiencing and the entire region is facing, and we hope that we would - able to seize this opportunity to achieve a lasting peace."
It's been exactly two weeks since Obama held a similar White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "I look forward to a productive discussion and continue to hope that you and Prime Minister Netanyahu, but more importantly, the people of the Palestinian territories and Israel are ready to move forward in a new spirit of cooperation and compromise," Obama said today.