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Top US officials to visit Israel

May 6, 2014 7:08 P.M. (Updated: May 9, 2014 6:18 P.M.)
WASHINGTON (AFP) -- US National Security Advisor Susan Rice will visit Israel this week for high-level talks only days after the collapse of a US-led peace bid, the White House said Tuesday.

Rice will "lead the US delegation to the US-Israel Consultative Group meetings" on Wednesday and Thursday, said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

It will be Rice's first trip to Israel since becoming the top security adviser to President Barack Obama in July and also comes just ahead of resumed negotiations on Iran's nuclear program.

The consultative group meets regularly for "strategic interagency consultations with senior members of the US and Israeli governments to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional security issues."

Rice will also meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hayden said in a statement.

The trip comes as the White House is evaluating whether to continue with its hard-fought negotiations to strike a peace deal after Netanyahu last month announced Israel was pulling out of the process.

The Israeli leader has angrily denounced moves by the President Mahmoud Abbas to strike a reconciliation deal with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf Monday dismissed reports that Secretary of State John Kerry had decided to dismantle the team of negotiators who have been based on the ground in Jerusalem for months trying to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"We're going to see where this goes from here and, you know, figure out what makes sense in terms of staffing," she told reporters, saying "we have some senior officials that will be going soon" to the region, without going into specifics.

Chief US negotiator Martin Indyk was said to have been quoted anonymously in an interview in the Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, in which US officials blamed Israel for the breakdown in the talks and said Netanyahu "did not move more than an inch."

Harf insisted no one side was to blame, saying "both sides did things that were incredibly unhelpful."

She did confirm, however, that Kerry is mulling whether to release a document laying out some of the principles reached during the nine months of talks.

Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, has meanwhile returned to Washington for consultations, Harf confirmed.
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