U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday used his speech at the U.N. General Assembly to insist that the recognition of the Palestinian state must come only via direct talks with Israel.

"(T)here is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades," he said in a speech in which he reviewed the changes in favor of democracy that have taken place this year across the Middle East.

Obama's address was seen as forced in part by circumstances. The decision of Palestine National Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to press for U.N. recognition in the face of Washington's adamant opposition has become the main issue at the General Assembly opening.

His support for the liberation movements in the Arab world has placed the U.S. leader in an apparently contradictory position, given his threat to veto Palestinian pretensions to statehood if the matter gets to the Security Council.

"Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations - if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now," Obama said Wednesday.

"Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians - not us - who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem," he said.

While reiterating U.S. support for a Palestinian state, Obama insisted, "We will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other's hopes and each other's fears."

Both sides, he said, have "legitimate aspirations." If the Palestinians are demanding their own state, Israel is demanding security.

Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately after his speech, and he was scheduled to meet later on Wednesday with Abbas.

Direct conversations between Israel and the Palestinians have been halted for about a year, when the Israeli moratorium on new construction at Jewish settlements on the West Bank expired.

As Obama is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, other elements of the Mideast Quartet - Russia, the United Nations and the European Union - are also trying to get consensus on a declaration that would allow the relaunching of direct negotiations and avoid the impasse in the United Nations.