President Barack Obama hopes to rekindle the faltering Middle East peace process this week in three-way talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
The US leader will meet separately with the two men on Tuesday on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly, before hosting a trilateral summit, the White House announced in a surprise move late Saturday.
The talks will seek "to lay the groundwork for the relaunch of negotiations, and to create a positive context for those negotiations so that they can succeed," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
Ahead of the talks, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is to meet US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Washington on Monday, an Israeli defense ministry statement said, without providing further details.
The three-way meeting marks the first trilateral summit between the leaders since Obama came to the White House in January, vowing to make the search for an elusive peace in the Middle East a priority of his new Democratic Party administration.
And it comes just after new US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell returned empty-handed from a mission to the region having failed to persuade Israeli leaders to freeze new settlement construction.