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Kerry to return to Middle East for continued talks

WASHINGTON--U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will head to the Middle East next week to continue talks on an elusive Mideast peace deal just as Israel is poised to announce plans to build more Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — a move expected to anger the Palestinians.

Kerry is scheduled to leave on New Year's Day for Israel and the Palestinian territories where he will discuss ongoing negotiations with leaders from both sides, the State Department said in a statement Saturday.

The parties re-launched direct talks last summer with the goal of forging an accord within nine months. The target date expires at the end of April, and while that is not considered a deadline to end talks, there has been little, if any, tangible sign of progress so far. The U.S. routinely insists progress is being made, but has declined to disclose details about the talks.

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