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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Invites Quartet for Talks

BERLIN -- The United States has invited the quartet of Middle East negotiators to meet in Washington on Feb. 2, backing efforts to widen international involvement in the stalled peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

Several European countries, including Germany, want the quartet -- the United States, United Nations, Russia and the European Union -- to play a bigger role in the process.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has agreed to take part in the meeting, RIA-Novosti quoted Moscow's chief negotiator, Sergei Yakovlev, as saying Thursday.

Yakovlev said negotiators from the quartet would hold a preparatory meeting in Paris on Jan. 24.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave reporters details of the planned quartet meeting before holding talks in Berlin on Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the current president of the European Union.

"I have issued an invitation to the members of the quartet for a meeting in Washington that will take place in the week beginning Jan. 29, and is likely to take place on Feb. 2," Rice said.

She arrived in Berlin from a five-day trip to the Middle East where she discussed both the relentless fighting in Iraq since a 2003 U.S. invasion and efforts to revive peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

During her visit, which took her to Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Rice obtained support from Arab allies for U.S. plans to send more troops to Iraq.

She said during the week that she planned to bring Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas together in a few weeks for informal talks on how to set up a Palestinian state.

She also said she favored a concerted, unified approach, and that it would be useful for the quartet to examine various ideas on how to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track.

Middle East peace efforts have made little progress since 2000, when a Palestinian uprising broke out months after the collapse of talks brokered by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton.