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Israelis, Palestinians discuss reviving peace negotiations

JERUSALEM, May 14 (JTA) — Israeli and Palestinian officials met this week in an effort to break the two-month impasse in their negotiations. The talks, held Wednesday night at the Herzliya residence of U.S. ambassador Martin Indyk, were arranged at the urging of U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, who arrived in the region last week in an effort to restart the peace talks. Foreign Minister David Levy said he viewed Wednesday’s talks as the first of a series to set an agenda for renewing negotiations. “This is not something we can settle in one meeting,” he told reporters after talks with the visiting Norwegian foreign minister, Bjorn Tore Godal. The Norwegian diplomat, who visited Israel after holding talks in Egypt, Jordan and Syria, conveyed a message signaling Syrian interest in resuming negotiations with Israel. Levy, who was due to meet Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington, said he hoped for a quick resumption of the negotiations. Regarding peace talks with Syria, which were suspended more than a year ago, Levy said he would be willing to meet with his Syrian counterpart at any time or place. Israeli-Palestinian talks and security cooperation have been frozen since mid-March, when Israel began constructing a new Jewish neighborhood at Har Homa in southeastern Jerusalem and a Palestinian suicide bomber attacked a Tel Aviv cafe. The Palestinians have demanded a halt to Israeli settlement activity as a condition for returning to the negotiations. For its part, Israel has demanded that Palestinian security officials resume sharing intelligence with their Israeli counterparts as a condition for resuming the negotiations. Levy said Wednesday that Israel’s position regarding Har Homa would not change. The Israel Defense Force intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, said earlier this week that there were still no signs of renewed security cooperation. He said that while there are no concrete warnings of terrorist attacks against Israel, Islamic militant organizations are aware that the atmosphere in the territories is conducive to carrying out attacks. Meanwhile, Israel continued to demand that the Palestinians fulfill their obligation under the terms of the September 1995 Interim Agreement to respond to Israeli requests to extradite suspected Palestinian terrorists currently in the autonomous areas. A statement issued by the Government Press Office on Tuesday said Israel had asked the Palestinian Authority to hand over 11 suspected terrorists, in addition to 20 others it had already requested. The office said that the Palestinian Authority had only responded to two requests, which it had rejected. The list included the names of 12 Palestinians who are serving in, or about to be recruited into, the Palestinian police force.