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Middle East peace talks to resume within week

July 28, 1997
Web posted at: 11:25 a.m. EDT (1525 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel and the Palestinians will resume stalled peace talks within a week, despite renewed controversy over Jewish housing construction.

Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy said Monday that committee-level talks on issues relating to Palestinian autonomy accords would resume within a week.

Levy made the announcement after meeting with Palestinian Authority Planning Minister Nabil Shaath in Jerusalem.

Talks effectively came to a halt in March because of a dispute over a new Jewish housing project on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

That construction, approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was strongly criticized by Palestinians, who said it could affect talks on the final status of Jerusalem, envisaged in Palestinian-Israeli peace accords.

The construction of the homes sparked a wave of Palestinian rioting and clashes with Israeli security forces.

"We must work together to advance issues on the agenda," Levy said after the meeting. "It is clear that in order to do so we must convene the committees, and these committees will be convened immediately, in the next few days."

However, Shaath said that "The issues which caused the deadlock are still in place, namely the settlements and the issues in Jerusalem."

The joint announcement on the resumption of peace talks came amid renewed controversy over yet another housing project.

On Monday, Israel suspended construction plans for new Jewish homes in historically Arab East Jerusalem, pending an appeal by two left-wing members of Jerusalem's City Council, who oppose the construction.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the project by Miami businessman Irving Moskowitz to build dozens of homes in the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood would not proceed until the appeal had been heard.

The Jerusalem District Appeal Committee is scheduled to hold a preliminary hearing on the challenge on August 5, according to the Interior Ministry.

The two members of the left-wing Meretz Party who filed the appeal Sunday said the area's infrastructure was insufficient for the new homes, and that the building would also harm the peace process.

Jerusalem city authorities had granted permission for the construction of 70 homes on land Moskowitz owns in the city.

Palestinian leaders strongly criticized that ruling by Jerusalem's city authorities and described it as a "declaration of war."

Netanyahu said last week that he would block the project "at this time."

But Netanyahu has rejected the Palestinian accusation that the housing projects in Jerusalem could affect final status talks on the future of Jerusalem.

Palestinians hope that East Jerusalem will one day be the capital of a Palestinian state, but the Israeli government firmly opposes this.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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