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US encourages Israel, Palestine to begin direct talks

Israeli PM Netanyahu is expected to meet US leader on July 6 at White House.

Washington: Ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s visit here next week, the US has said it encourages both Israel and Palestinians to reach a common understanding for initiating direct negotiations to resolve the Middle East conflict.

"We continue to encourage both the Israelis and Palestinians to demonstrate that they are ready to take the step from the proximity talks to direct negotiations. There are areas that both sides are looking for," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters yesterday.

"Our role is to try to help each understand what the other feels it needs and to try to move them to a point where we think direct negotiations are possible. We`re not there yet," he said.

Crowley said that there are still different expectations on both sides of what they feel and they need to be able to take that step.

"We`re going to try to continue to work to reach a common understanding that we think can help them get to direct negotiations as soon as possible," he said.

Separately, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said US President Barack Obama is looking forward to hosting the Israeli Prime Minister, who had to cancel a meeting last time.

Netanyahu is expected to meet Obama on July 06 at the White House.

"I think they`ll discuss a series of important bilateral issues, the implementation of Israel`s recent policy changes in Gaza, regional security, our ongoing proximity talks and the need and the hope to get quickly to direct talks," Gibbs said.

In response to a question, Gibbs said as of now, Obama has no plan to visit Israel.


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