WASHINGTON (CNN) - U.S. President Barack Obama asserted Tuesday that there has been "movement in the right direction" from both Israelis and Palestinians in response to a renewed push for a comprehensive Middle East peace.
Obama made the claim during a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the White House. The two leaders said they discussed a broad range of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prospect of nuclear-armed Iran, the evolving situation in Iraq, and several new health and education initiatives.
They also discussed the prospects for domestic political reform in Egypt - a sensitive subject for the U.S. administration and Mubarak, who is frequently criticized by human rights activists and political opponents for suppressing internal dissent.
"If all sides are willing to move off of the rut" that has characterized negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in recent years, then "there's an extraordinary opportunity" for progress, Obama said.
Obama praised reports of the recent removal of Israeli checkpoints and increased economic activity in the West Bank. He said he hoped the Palestinians would begin to take new steps to bolster Israeli security, and that more Arab countries would reach out to the Jewish state.
"The negotiations of the final status" of Jerusalem, the Israeli-Palestinian border, and the rights of Palestinian refugees "will not be easy," Mubarak replied. "But I believe we can reach a solution."
Obama was initially scheduled to host Mubarak in Washington on May 26. The meeting - one of three planned for the end of the May with Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas - was postponed due to the death of Mubarak's grandson.
Obama has also met with Jordan's King Abdullah II and Saudi King Abdullah, among others, as part of the administration's push for a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Obama called for closer relations between the United States and the Muslim world during a closely-watched address at Egypt's Cairo University on June 4.