WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday resumed direct talks here after a 20-month hiatus.
The talks are aimed at ending a six-decade conflict between the two sides within a year.
The first round of talks, hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was held in the State Department building.
"You each have taken an important step toward freeing your peoples from the shackles of a history we cannot change," Clinton said at the opening session of the direct talks.
"We understand the suspicion and skepticism" many felt about the process, she said, but the U.S. believed the Palestinian and Israeli leaders could succeed.
Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was in the national interests of the U.S., she said, vowing her country would play the role of "an active and sustained partner in the process," she said.
"We cannot and will not impose a solution. Only you can make a peace agreement," she added.
Netanyahu said any peace agreement must take into account the "genuine security needs" of Israel.
Abbas said direct talks should lead to a peace agreement within one year.
He called on Israel to stop all settlement activities in the West Bank and end the embargo on the people in Gaza.
The issue of settlement construction has posed an immediate challenge to the direct talks, with Netanyahu on Tuesday saying he would not extend a moratorium that expires on Sept. 26.
Following the opening session, Clinton, Netanyahu and Abbas will continue to hold a private meeting.