U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will arrive in the region by the end of this week, as part of U.S. efforts to fill in the gap between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators.

The U.S State Department Spokesperson was quoted as saying yesterday that Rice’s visit will aim at bringing Israelis and Palestinians closer in terms of contentious issues, in a bid to advance the peace process.

Rice’s trip this week, which will begin on Friday and end Sunday, is part of a series of visits that Rice has paid to the region in the past months.

In November of last year, the Washington-sponsored Annapolis summit between Palestinians and Israelis kicked off the stalled peace process in an attempt to reach a two-state solution by the end of 2008.

Negotiations between the two sides, since then, have achieved no concrete progress, as Israel continues to plan settlement building and expansion on occupied Palestinian lands, which Palestinians see as ‘preempting the final status talks’.

Israeli settlement activities have been one of the main stumbling blocks for the peace talks, and Washington has also voiced concern about such activities as an ‘impediment to peace-making efforts’.

Recently, the Palestinians have asked for more pressure from the United States aimed at halting such activities, which derogate Palestinians’ right to 1967 borders, including occupied east Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as their future capital.