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Israelis and Palestinians in Washington ahead of Obama trip

US President Barack Obama, on February 15, 2013
Israeli and Palestinian officials are beating a path to Washington ahead of next month's state visit of US President Barack Obama, pictured here on February 15, 2013, to Jerusalem and Ramallah, officials on both sides said on Sunday.

Israeli and Palestinian officials are beating a path to Washington ahead of next month's state visit of US President Barack Obama to Jerusalem and Ramallah, officials on both sides said on Sunday.

Palestinian negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh said that he and colleague Saeb Erekat would meet administration officials midweek to stake out Palestinian positions on the conflict with Israel.

"The Palestinian delegation will arrive in Washington on Wednesday to begin meetings with US officials on Thursday," he told AFP.

The White House has not announced specific dates for the Obama visit, his first to Israel and the West Bank as president.

Israeli media reports and a Palestinian official have said that it will run from March 20-22 and take in talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The White House has kept expectations deliberately low, saying Obama has no plans to use the trip to push new proposals to break the more than two-year deadlock in peace talks.

Shtayyeh said that he and Erekat would "clarify the Palestinian position" with particular reference to Israel's accelerated building of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his talks with Obama would focus on Iran's nuclear programme, the conflict in Syria and long-stalled stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

He said that Israeli negotiator Isaac Molcho had just returned from discussions on the issue in Washington and that Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror would travel to the US capital in the coming week for further discussions.

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