PM Binyamin Netanyahu, PA Chairman Abbas
PM Binyamin Netanyahu, PA Chairman AbbasIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The United States on Wednesday urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume direct talks in 2013 and move toward peace.

"As we turn the calendar to 2013... now is the time for leaders on both sides to display real leadership, to focus on the work that's necessary to return to direct negotiations," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was quoted by AFP as having said.

The U.S. urged "both sides to clearly demonstrate that they are serious about achieving two states living side by side in peace and security," she said, calling on both sides to halt any "counter-productive unilateral actions."

Nuland stressed that with President Barack Obama starting his second White House term this month and upcoming elections in Israel, the two sides are heading into a particularly important period.

"We have an environment that was quite fraught and quite difficult at the end of 2012, so the question is whether we can make a fresh start in 2013, and that's going to require restraint on all sides," Nuland said, according to AFP.

"We want 2013 to be a better year, we really do," she added.

Since 2009 Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has refused to come to the negotiating table with Israel and has continuously tried to impose preconditions on talks.

One of his longstanding demands is that Israel accept the pre-1967 lines as final borders. He has also demanded that Israel release all Arab terrorists from its jails, and halt construction in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem for a second time before talks begin. At the same time, he has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist. His Fatah party's newly adopted logo shows all of Israel as Palestine.

Even when Israel imposed a ten-month freeze on Jewish construction in an attempt to bring Abbas back to the negotiating table, he refused, choosing instead to impose more preconditions.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called Abbas back to the negotiating table several times, but Abbas has refused. Instead, he opted for unilateral moves such as upgrading the PA's status in the United Nations to a non-member observer state.

This week he said that the UN vote was the "birth certificate" of a Palestinian state.

"We have a birth certificate... and we want to complete the march toward full independence," Abbas said. "Next year, 2013, will be the year of statehood and independence."