Israel and the Palestinians are "very close" to a decision to enter into direct negotiations for a peace agreement, the US State Department said Thursday, dpa reported.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had earlier spoken to Palestinian Foreign Minister Salam Fayyad, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and Tony Blair, who represents the group of Mideast mediators known as the Quartet.
"We are very, very close to a decision by the parties to enter into direct negotiations," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said. "There are details that are still being worked out."
For months, the US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, has been mediating indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians while pushing both sides to engage in face-to-face discussions.
The Palestinians have insisted on a freeze to all Israeli settlement activity before entering negotiations, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said there should be no preconditions.
Crowley said there could soon be a statement from the Quartet, which consists of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and United States, backing the resumption of direct negotiations.