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Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Monday. ((Charles Dharapak/Associated Press))

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he is ready to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu spoke after meeting at the White House with U.S. President Barack Obama for more than two hours on Monday.

The talks focused on Mideast peace, Iran's nuclear program and the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

At a press conference held after the meeting, Obama urged Netanyahu to seize the opportunity to restart Mideast peace talks.

"We have seen progress stalled on this front, and I suggested to the prime minister that he has a historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure," Obama said. "That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they have previously agreed to."

Before his Feb. 10 election, Netanyahu derided the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which stalled late last year, as a waste of time.

Netanyahu said Israel is willing to start peace negotiations with Palestinians immediately but Palestinians must first recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It was not immediately clear in the way he phrased the response whether Netanyahu was demanding that as a precondition for talks.

"I share with you very much the desire to move the peace process forward," Netanyahu said.

He added Monday that Palestinians should govern themselves but made no mention of a sovereign Palestinian homeland.

"I want to make it clear that we don't want to govern the Palestinians," he said. "We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves absent a handful of powers that could endanger the State of Israel."

Palestinians will be unable to govern themselves while Israeli occupation continues in the West Bank and Gaza, said Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian negotiator.

Obama said it is in the best interest of Israel and Palestinians to "achieve a two-state solution" to the conflict in the region.

A two-state solution is in the best interest of Israelis, Palestinians and the international community, Obama said. He also urged Israel to stop expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu did not directly respond that comment.

An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Obama's comments were encouraging but that Netanyahu's were disappointing.

Netanyahu "did not mention a commitment to a two-state solution, and we need to see American action against this policy," said aide Nail Abu Redden.

Any peace process should also include other countries in the Arab world, Netanyahu said.

"There's never been a time when Arabs and Israelis see a common threat the way we see it today," Netanyahu said, speaking of a sense of urgency felt throughout the Arab world about Iran's nuclear program.

During the press conference, Obama said he expects a positive response from the diplomatic outreach to Iran from the U.S. on stopping its nuclear program by the end of the year.

The president said the United States wants to bring Iran into the world community, but declared "we're not going to have talks forever."

With files from The Associated Press