Report Israel is Asking Rumania to Help Secure Release of Israeli Pows Held by Syria

Israel may be seeking Rumania’s help in securing the release of Israeli POWs held by Syria. This was one purpose of the secret visit by the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Matityahu Shmuel-evits, to President Nicolae Ceausescu of Rumania about a month ago, according to reports by Voice of Israel Radio and Maariv.

The radio report said Shmuelevits was sent on his mission to Bucharest with a special message from Premier Menachem Begin to Ceausescu. The latter reportedly offered to help Israel in its contacts with various Arab states. Rumania maintains diplomatic relations with both Israel and the Arab countries.

It is assumed by observers here that Begin asked Ceausescu to use his influence among his Arab friends with respect to “humanitarian subjects” related to the war in Lebanon. This apparenly referred to the three Israeli POWs in Syria and eight other Israeli soldiers captured by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Another reason Begin sent his aide to Rumania was to cement his good relations with Ceausescu, established in 1977 when the Rumanian President played an important role in arranging Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, PLO chief Yasir Arafat ended a visit to Bucharest by issuing a joint statement with Ceausescu calling for intensified diplomatic effort to resolve the Middle East conflict.

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