abbas netanyahu - AP - September 15 2010
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Jerusalem, September 15, 2010. Photo by AP
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A senior U.S. administration official outlined Tuesday the efforts by American negotiators to find a way out of the Palestinian-Israeli stalemate. “This is a difficult task and the gaps between the parties are challenging,” said the senior official in a conference call with reporters.

In the past week, following the visit of the Palestinian negotiators to Washington, President Barack Obama's adviser Dennis Ross and the special envoy to the Mideast David Hale visited the region and met with Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian officials. On Friday in Brussels, a meeting of the Quartet will take place to evaluate the situation.

“The status quo is unsustainable," said the official, "and the only way forward is through the negotiations." He added that meetings and conferences have to be “linked to the willingness of the parties to resume negotiations”.

Answering a question from Haaretz about the U.S. expectations from Israel, the official said the administration agrees Israel shouldn’t be expected to negotiate with Hamas. "The (Palestinian) reconciliation issue is a significant one and there are profound questions that only Palestinians can answer," he said. "We need to face these questions, but right now we are dealing with them with a 'wait and see' attitude."

Commenting on the situation in Syria, the official said that “our objective remains comprehensive peace, and Syria is part of it, but we can’t contemplate peace agreement with someone who is killing his own people."