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July 30, 2013

Obama meets with Middle East negotiators

President Obama put the weight of the White House behind efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, meeting today at the White House with negotiators who are here in Washington to renew peace talks.

Obama met with them for less than half a hour, along with vice president Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Special Envoy Martin Indyk, and National Security Council coordinator Philip Gordon.

"The president used this opportunity to convey his appreciation to both sides for the leadership and courage they have shown in coming to the table, and to directly express his personal support for final-status negotiation," Press Secretary Jay Carney said, adding that Obama "underscored that there is much to do in the days and months ahead."
Carney declined to give details of the discussions, saying that "all sides agree that it would be most conducive to this process" to not divulge details. "We're going to abide by that," he said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest had said Monday that Obama had no immediate meetings with the negotiators planned, but left the door open to future talks. The White House has taken credit for the resumption of talks, pegging it to Obama's March Middle East trip, though until today Obama had kept a low profile, as Kerry made repeated trips to the region, pursuing talks.
"The president is engaged in this process," said Carney, who added that Obama had asked Kerry to oversee the negotiations.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat were scheduled to meet U.S. counterparts for dinner Monday night, with talks set to begin at the State Department Tuesday morning.

Obama met with the negotiators before heading to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he'll push his economic agenda. Obama hopped aboard Marine One at the White House without responding to a shouted question about the meeting, smiling and cupping his ear if to imply he could not hear the question over the noise of the helicopter.

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