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State Department: Direct Talks Between Israelis, Palestinians Are ‘Very Close’

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are “very, very close,” a U.S. State Department spokesman said, and Hillary Rodham Clinton is in constant telephone contact with the leaders.

“We think we’re very, very close, but there’s still work being done and there are details being worked out – should the parties come to an agreement to enter into direct negotiations?” P.J. Crowley said Thursday. “How will they – when will they happen? Where will they happen? What will be the agenda for the first meeting? There are still things that we’re working through.”

The New York Times reported Friday that Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, was set to announce the resumption of talks in the United States in early September. The Times report, quoting U.S. officials, said talks would last for a year. Crowley would only say that Clinton is maintains daily phone contact with leaders in the region.

Israel wants talks without preconditions; the Palestinians want Israel to extend and expand the partial settlement freeze Netanyahu imposed last year, and want final status issues, including borders, Jerusalem and refugees on the table.

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