The government is considering a number of options to potentially inject fresh impetus into stalled talks to restore powersharing at Stormont.
Secretary of State James Brokenshire said he was carefully examining how best to approach negotiations when they are scheduled to resume at the end of the summer.
After months of impasse and a series of missed deadlines, Mr Brokenshire has faced calls to change the dynamic of the process.
The appointment of an independent overseas mediator or even shifting the talks venue out of Northern Ireland have been among the options suggested.
On a visit to the US, Mr Brokenshire said the government was considering how to approach the next phase of the talks.
Asked whether an outside talks chair or a new venue were potential options, the Secretary of State said: “We are thinking carefully about how we can best support and create the right climate and context to get that positive outcome that I think people in Northern Ireland want to see, which is that executive getting back into position, having locally elected politicians doing the job they have been voted to do.
“We need to think carefully because we have made progress and it is important to underline that issues have been narrowed.
“There are always risks around doing something different - as to whether that unpicks or undermines the progress that has already been achieved - but we are thinking carefully and thoughtfully as to what the next steps might need to be.”
During his Washington trip, Mr Brokenshire is meeting with representatives of the US administration, potential investors and politicians with an interest in the peace process.
He said he was taking soundings from those meetings on how best to proceed at Stormont and was also involved in discussions with the Irish government.
The Conservative MP said he was also encouraging US politicians to use their influence and connections with the local parties in Northern Ireland to push for a resolution.