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US Envoys Try to Renew Israeli-Palestinian Talks


Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the expansion of nearby settlements at the West Bank village of Dier Qadis, near Ramallah, June 15, 2011.

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the expansion of nearby settlements at the West Bank village of Dier Qadis, near Ramallah, June 15, 2011.

Senior U.S. diplomats are in Jerusalem to try to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed last year.

U.S. and Israeli officials confirmed the visit by Dennis Ross and David Hale Wednesday. It is the first time the pair has visited the region since U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell resigned last month after failing to renew negotiations between the two sides.

The U.S. State Department says the two envoys held meetings with Israeli officials Wednesday as part of the "ongoing U.S. effort to get the parties back to the negotiating table." Hale will meet with Palestinian officials Thursday in Ramallah.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled last September, partly due to Palestinian objections to Israeli settlement construction on land they want as part of a future state.

Israeli government officials announced plans last month to build about 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, on land that Israel annexed after the 1967 war.

Last week, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris would move ahead with efforts to organize a Mideast peace conference in coming weeks despite reservations expressed by the U.S. and Israel.

Juppe told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York that France is still working on the initiative and expects "positive developments" in the next few weeks.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a cool response to the French plan, saying any new gathering must be linked to a willingness by the parties to resume talks.

Juppe said the conference could be critical to forestalling a crisis at the U.N. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he intends to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September, a move that both Israel and the U.S. say will only inflame tensions.

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