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Israeli-Palestinian peace process in holding pattern: U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had come to a standstill, all but acknowledging U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will fail to meet his goal of a peace deal by April 29.

Israel on Thursday suspended the talks in response to a reconciliation pact between Fatah, the Palestinian faction that leads the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and which the United States and Israel regard as a terrorist group.

The talks appeared to have been going nowhere for months.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki sought to place the onus on the Israelis and the Palestinians to decide whether they can find a way to continue the negotiations, which Kerry had championed and to which he devoted extensive time and travel.

"We are in a holding period where parties need to figure out what is next," Psaki said. "We have always thought there could be a point where we needed to pause and both sides needed to look at what was possible. And we're clearly at that point now."

"He certainly may stay in touch with them as may our negotiating team," Psaki told reporters, saying Kerry had spoken separately to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday.

"But in terms of what needs to happen now, yes, absolutely, we're at a point where the parties need to figure out what's next. We'll still remain in touch with them, but it is on them," she said at her daily briefing.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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