"I have to commend President Abbas," Obama said alongside the Palestinian leader. "He has been somebody who has consistently renounced violence, has consistently sought a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side, in peace and security; a state that allows for the dignity and sovereignty of the Palestinian people and a state that allows for Israelis to feel secure and at peace with their neighbors."
“Everyone understands the outlines of what a peace deal would look like,” Obama said.
But getting there would require both sides to take “very hard, very challenging, tough political decisions and risks,” he conceded.
Obama added that he would stress the importance of the “rule of law” and “transparency” to Abbas.
“I look forward to productive discussions,” he said.
Abbas thanked Obama for welcoming him to the White House and for the “economic and political support the U.S. is extending to the Palestinian state so it can stand on its own feet."
"We don't have any time to waste,” he said of the peace process. “Time is not on our side."
The talks with Abbas came on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the White House and with only weeks left before a U.S.-imposed deadline for the two sides to sign off an a blueprint for further negotiations.
Secretary of State John Kerry has made the Mideast peace process a centerpiece of his tenure, but talks have bogged down amid lingering mistrust between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel wants the Palestinians to do more to stop violence and accept Israel’s right to exist.
During his White House visit earlier in March, Netanyahu told Obama that he would not be pressured into any talks and that his paramount concern was Israel's security.
“What we want is peace. Not a piece of paper, but real peace,” the Israeli leader said.
This story was published at 12:16 p.m. and has been updated.
An earlier version of this story, relying on a White House pool report, incorrectly quoted Obama.