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Palestinians want quicker final peace deal, Israel says

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  • U.S. envoy on the way
  • Israel seals West Bank border
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  • April 16, 1997
    Web posted at: 11:50 a.m. EDT (1550 GMT)

    VALLETTA, Malta (CNN) -- Israel said Wednesday the Palestinian Authority is open to speeding up talks on the final status of Palestinian territories.

    Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy met Wednesday for what a Palestinian spokesman called a "courtesy visit." No substantial progress was reported, but it was the first high level contact between Palestinians and Israelis since talks broke down last month over a controversial Israeli housing project on the southeastern outskirts of Jerusalem.

    "The wish to return to the right path exists," Levy said after the meeting. "The negotiating table is the place where the two sides will be able to discuss their problems."

    Levy said Arafat and Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath "expressed their will to accelerate the work on the final status" of the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

    As a way out of the current deadlock, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested an earlier conclusion to the process than the timetable outlined in the Oslo peace accords.

    Almost daily clashes between rock-throwing Palestinians and Israeli soldiers erupted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after Netanyahu ordered construction to begin on a 6,500-unit Jewish settlement on March 18.

    U.S. envoy on the way

    U.S. Mideast envoy Dennis Ross was to meet with both the Palestinian and Israeli leaders separately Wednesday night to try to break down some of the barriers that are keeping the parties from the negotiating table.

    Violence and threat of violence are high on Israel's list -- three days after the housing construction began, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and three Israeli women at a Tel Aviv cafe.

    Israel seals West Bank border

    Israel closed its border with the West Bank after the attack, preventing thousands of Palestinians from crossing into Israel for jobs.

    Israel relaxed the border closure Monday, but late Tuesday announced it would be closed once more after Israeli intelligence warned of possible further terrorist attacks.

    The Palestinians demand that construction on the housing project stop before talks continue, something Netanyahu says won't happen.

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