RAMALLAH/GAZA, March 21 (Xinhua) -- Visiting U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday agreed that Israeli settlement activities in the Palestinian territories are an obstacle to the peace process and to the principle of the two-state solution.
President Obama told a joint news conference held in the West Bank city of Ramallah in the aftermath of his meeting with President Abbas, which lasted for about two hours, that the Israeli settlement activity "is unconstructive and complicates the process of achieving peace in the region."
Abbas said that the Israeli settlement "is illegal and is a major obstacle to achieving the principle of the two-state solution." The Palestinians still insist that direct negotiations with Israel won't be resumed before Israel declares a full stop of settlement activities on the territories that it occupied since 1967.
However, Obama, who will visit the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday, said "Israel and the Palestinians should both make the needed concessions for achieving peace in the area."
Obama reiterated that Washington is committed to the establishment of an independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian state alongside with Israel, stressing that this can only be achieved "through direct negotiations between the two sides."
"If we can get direct negotiations started again, I believe that the shape of a potential deal is there," Obama said, adding that he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the building of settlement was "not constructive and not appropriate."
The Palestinians suspended direct peace talks in October 2010 following a dispute on Jewish settlement's construction in the West Bank.
At the news conference, President Abbas also listed the obstacles toward peace, saying that "Peace will not be heard by violence, occupation, walls, settlements, arrests, closure and the denial of refugees' rights," adding "we were ready to provide all the requirements to restart the peace process."
Obama said the Palestinian people "deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it," praising the achievements of President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Obama condemned the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip against Israel earlier Thursday. He said that Gaza residents live in "misery" under the rule of Hamas, which the United States classifies as a terrorist organization.
However, Taher al-Noono, a spokesman for Hamas government, said in a press statement emailed to reporters that neither Hamas nor other Palestinian factions are involved in the earlier firing of rockets from northern Gaza on southern Israel.
Hamas government's Prime Minister Ismail Haneya said in an SMS message sent to reporters' cellular phones on Thursday that Hamas doesn't expect any breakthrough from Obama's visit "that may change the political equation on the ground."
Haneya said that Hamas doesn't consider U.S. policy as helpful in ending Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
"The Palestinian Authority should conceive that its future is linked to its commitments to the Palestinian legitimate rights and merits, in addition to the immediate implementation of the internal reconciliation," said Haneya. "We also reject considering Iran as the enemy of the Arabs or of Israel."