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Mideast diplomacy by way of the White House basketball court

By Jim Acosta, CNN Senior White House Correspondent
updated 7:10 PM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014

Washington (CNN) -- Looking for a way to blow off some steam after she spent hours inside the Situation Room, National Security Adviser Susan Rice invited a group of Israeli and Palestinian teens over to the White House for some basketball on President Barack Obama's court.

The youths are in Washington as part of a State Department sports diplomacy program with PeacePlayers International. The aim is to build reconciliation and understanding between communities in conflict.

The teens had heard Rice was a basketball player (she's a former point guard) and asked to meet her. Rice accepted and reserved Obama's basketball court Thursday to be used after he left for a fund-raising swing to California.

"When it comes to Middle East peace, nothing is easy," Rice wrote in a White House blog post Friday. "But our commitment to a just and sustainable resolution to this conflict is unwavering, and we will continue to work closely with both sides -- the Israelis and Palestinians -- to help find a way forward. The work that the State Department does to foster people-to-people diplomacy is vital to our efforts to build trust and understanding in conflict situations."