US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat next week in Washington, DC, the State Department announced on Friday.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland added that Clinton had recently met with Yitzhak Molcho, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy for negotiations with the Palestinians. Nuland also confirmed that the secretary of state had spoken with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas within the last few days.

“We are trying to improve the atmosphere in order to move forward and bring the parties back to the negotiating table,” she said.

Erekat told the official Voice of Palestine radio station Wednesday that an Israeli-Palestinian meeting may take place soon, although no exact time had been scheduled.

On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, the Kadima party chairman, invited Abbas to begin talks without delay.

“Put aside the dispatches, put aside the letters, enough chatter and preconditions — come and talk peace! Come now,” urged Mofaz. “The Palestinians must know that our hand is extended to peace with those who are willing and able to decide. We will not have a better opportunity than this one.”