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U.S. says 'gaps narrowing' in talks between Israelis and Palestinians

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The State Department said on Thursday that progress was being made in U.S.-mediated negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians meant to keep peace talks going, but denied reports from the region that there had been an agreement.

"Our negotiating team and both parties remain in intensive negotiation. They had another meeting today. The gaps are narrowing but any speculations about an agreement are premature at this time," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a regular briefing.

Asked precisely what the negotiators were trying to achieve, Psaki said: "We are working to determine what the path forward is for these negotiations."

Psaki said that the U.S. mediator, Martin Indyk, would be returning to Washington for consultations "in the coming days" but would return to the region next week.

The negotiations, which began in July, plunged into crisis last week when Israel, demanding a Palestinian commitment to continue talking beyond an April 29 deadline for a peace deal, failed to carry out a promised release of about two dozen Palestinian prisoners.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded by signing 15 global treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations, on behalf of the State of Palestine, a defiant move that surprised Washington and angered Israel.

(Reporting By David Storey; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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