ANKARA U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday the United States strongly supported the aim of setting up a Palestinian state living "side by side" and at peace with Israel.
Obama reiterated the U.S. position after Israel's new foreign minister said last week that Israel was not bound by a deal to start negotiations on establishing a Palestinian state.
"Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," Obama said in a speech to the Turkish parliament.
"Now, we must not give into pessimism and mistrust. We must pursue every opportunity for progress," he said, weighing in on the Middle East peace issue for the first time since rightist Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took power and formed a new government.
Obama promised to actively pursue a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"We know that the road ahead will be difficult. Both Israelis and Palestinians must take the steps that are necessary to build confidence," he said.
In his speech, Obama also said he sought engagement with Iran.
But he added: "Iran's leaders must choose whether they will try to build a weapon or build a better future for their people."
(Reporting by Caren Bohan; editing by Angus MacSwan)