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Round 2 of Israeli-Palestinian talks begins in Egypt

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faces an urgent test of mediation savvy in Israeli-Palestinian talks, which could break down over the settlement freeze set to expire Sept. 26.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (c.) looks on as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (l.) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before their meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh Sept. 14. Secretary Clinton began a round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on Tuesday to try to bridge an impasse over Israeli settlement building.

Baz Ratner/Reuters

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders today in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in an attempt to avoid a breakdown of peace talks over Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

With Palestinians vowing to quit the talks if Israel does not agree to extend the settlement freeze due to expire Sept. 26, the summit is shaping up to be a cliffhanger test of American mediation savvy.

"The Americans are going to have to do the finessing," says Gershon Baskin, codirector of the Israel Palestinian Center for Research and Information. "Each side has climbed up a ladder. Can the Americans convince each side that they can get enough out of [the talks] so they continue the negotiations?''

President Obama has appealed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the freeze. The prime minister, however, has said building will resume, though he has hinted at a possible compromise.

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