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Sunday September 17 5:07 PM ET
Israel, Palestinians Resume Formal Talks
By Wafa Amr
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed formal talks on Sunday, keeping alive a flagging peace process plagued by wide divisions on key issues -- but apparently making no progress toward a deal.
``We still have yet to see any movement on the Palestinian side,'' Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office said in a terse statement after the talks in Jerusalem.
The downbeat statement, which gave no details of what was discussed, termed the negotiations ``part of on-going contacts.'' There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials.
Earlier, a senior Palestinian official said Israel's Gilad Sher and Palestinians Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Dahlan met in a first formal session since the Palestinian mini-parliament last week delayed a statehood declaration until at least November 15.
The current round of peacemaking is widely expected to last four to five weeks, a time frame leading to the return from summer recess of Israel's parliament -- which is eying early elections -- and the U.S. presidential ballot in November.
A Palestinian official said on Saturday the talks with Israel would be held without U.S. participation and negotiators would try to bridge what he called big gaps on all final-status issues.
Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat failed to achieve a final peace deal during intensive U.S.-brokered talks at Camp David in July aimed at resolving issues including the fate of refugees and Jerusalem.
Talks Follow U.S. Meetings With Negotiators
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has met in recent days in New York with negotiators from both sides to help inject new impetus into the peace process. But there have been no public signs of significant progress.
Erekat has said that in meetings with Albright and other U.S. officials in New York, Palestinians had reiterated that Israel must honor U.N. resolutions and that the United States had said it would exert ``maximum efforts to narrow the gaps.''
The resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks came with the two sides still deadlocked over control of holy sites in the Jerusalem.
Acting Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami told reporters in New York on Friday that a Palestinian proposal for Islamic sovereignty over holy places in the city did not look promising.
Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in 1967, annexing it and declaring the entire city its ``indivisible capital.''
Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of a future state.
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