Spain Moving to Improve Economic, Cultural Relations with Israel

The Foreign Ministry of Spain announced today that Premier Felipe Gonzales has not yet decided whether to seek formal diplomatic ties with Israel but that Spain is already acting to improve its economic and cultural relations with the Jewish State.

His statement followed reports in the Spanish and Israeli press that the two countries are about to exchange diplomatic recognition and to exchange ambassadors. A report in the Israeli press said Israeli envoys in Madrid were already looking for a suitable building to house the future Embassy.

Spain is the only Western European country that has never recognized Israel despite the fact that since its admission to the European Economic Community (EEC) it has been under widespread pressure from its partners to align itself with the rest of the EEC member-states.

Gonzales’ electoral victory was seen as giving Spain an additional push on the way to recognizing Israel. He had visited the Jewish State on several occasions as guest of the Labor Party. While he was in the opposition, Gonzales hinted that if he was elected, there would be an improvement in Spain’s relations with Israel. A Spanish Socialist delegation, led by the parry’s chairman, Ramon Rubnial, is currently in Israel to meet with government officials and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres.

WAITING FOR A PARTIAL PULLBACK

The Spanish press said today that Gonzales is probably waiting for at least a partial Israeli pullback in Lebanon before announcing his decision. Diplomatic reports in the Spanish dailies also said Gonzales, who is a vice president of the Socialist International, would have preferred to exchange ambassadors with a Labor-led government in Israel.

Spain has traditionally close economic links with the Arab states and in 1982 imported $4 billion worth of oil from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar and managed to sell them products for a near equivalent amount. Arab influence is traditionally strong in Madrid and the Spanish Socialists are, together with their Greek colleagues, the least influenced by the United States policies in the Middle East.

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