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US still aiming for on Mideast peace, despite setbacks

Secretary of State John Kerry.

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Secretary of State John Kerry.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the U.S. isn’t ready to write off Mideast peace negotiations, even after Israel broke off talks with Palestinian leaders who are trying to create a coalition government with the militant group Hamas.

‘‘There is always a way forward,’’ Kerry told reporters in brief remarks at the State Department.

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However, Kerry said Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to make necessary compromises so that the nine months of negotiations can continue after an April 29 deadline. If they won't, he said, peace ‘‘becomes very elusive.’’

‘‘We will never give up our hope or our commitment for the possibilities for peace,’’ he said. ‘‘We believe it is the only way to go. But right now, obviously, it’s at a very difficult point and the leaders themselves have to make decisions. It’s up to them.’’

Over the last month, both sides in the troubled talks have each taken unhelpful steps and caused setbacks that have signaled an impending collapse of the negotiations. That has forced Kerry to divert focus from crises across the world, including in Ukraine and Syria, in his quest to shepherd through a Mideast peace agreement that has foiled U.S. diplomats for years.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry spoke privately with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his disapproval of the plans to create a reconciliation government with Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., European Union and other nations.

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would never negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes people who have called for the destruction of Israel, as Hamas has.

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The negotiations began last summer with a goal to reach an agreement by April 29.

Since then, talks have yielded so little progress that diplomats have been trying to create a framework by that date for the talks to continue for several more months.

It was not immediately clear how long the U.S. is now prepared to let the latest impasse continue. U.S. negotiators will remain in the region for the time being, Psaki said.

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