Both the Israeli prime minister and Palestinian president spoke optimistically about yesterday’s direct talks in Washington and committed themselves to working for progress, although officials said there had as yet been no in-depth negotiation on key issues of Israeli security and settlements.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the initial discussions as “an important step toward freeing your peoples from the shackles of a history we cannot change.”
She added: “We know how difficult the road ahead will be. There undoubtedly will be obstacles and setbacks.
“Those who oppose the cause of peace will try in every way possible to sabotage this process, as we have already seen this week.
"I know the decision to sit at this table was not easy."
During the talks, the first face-to-face meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in nearly two years, Mr Netanyahu hailed Mr Abbas as “a partner for peace”.
He said: “Together, we can lead our people to a historic future that can put an end to claims and to conflict."
“A true peace, a lasting peace would be achieved only with mutual and painful concessions from both sides."
Mr Abbas expressed his hope that within a year there would be “an agreement that will bring peace."
The next round of talks is expected to take place in Sharm el-Sheik in Egypt, the site of a peace summit in February 2005.
Hamas, which claimed responsibility for killing four Israeli civilians in a drive-by shooting earlier this week and injuring two others in a similar terror attack, rejected the talks as “not legitimate.”
A Hamas spokesman said: “Any result and outcome of these talks does not commit us and does not commit our people, it only commits Abbas himself."
Hamas also warned that they would collaborate with 13 other Gaza terror groups to launch “more effective attacks” against Israel.
In pictures Middle East peace talks