USSR Seen As Steering a More Moderate Course Toward Israel

The Soviet Union has somewhat changed its Mideast policy and seems to be steering a more moderate course in its relations with Israel, according to French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas.

French correspondents in Helsinki where Dumas met yesterday for close to three hours with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze report that the French delegation sees a definite change in Moscow’s policy in the area.

Dumas himself said this evening in a radio interview that he felt a change in Soviet policy has taken place since the new leadership took over. Dumas, specifically mentioned the Middle East as one of the areas in which this change was tangible.

The meeting took place to lay the initial groundwork for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s scheduled visit to France in October. French officials said Dumas and Shevardnadze did not negotiate but prepared the visit. Nonetheless, these officials have said, they felt a change in the Soviet line which appears less rigorous than in the past.

RANKING ISRAELI DIPLOMAT VISITED THE USSR

Israeli sources confirmed today that a top-ranking Israeli diplomat last month paid a “private” visit to the Soviet Union. The sources said Yosef Amihud, minister in charge of information at the Israeli Embassy in Paris, obtained a visa and visited the Soviet Union as a member of a group of foreign diplomats. The visit was organized by the French “Diplomatic Academy,” a private association of foreign diplomats and foreign correspondents based in France.

Israel decided to try and include Amihud in the group so as to test Soviet willingness to grant visas to Israeli diplomats. Amihud told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he obtained a visa and that his Soviet hosts “obviously knew who I was and what my nationality and my posts are. “He said he was not discriminated against and managed to visit the synagogue and meet local Jewish activists.

Dumas last week assured Israeli Ambassador Ovadia Soffer that France will do all it can to enable a Soviet-Israeli rapprochement. Dumas said the Israeli envoy will be a guest at President Francois Mitterrand’s formal reception for Gorbachov at the Elysee Palace. Dumas is quoted as having said that “then it will be up to the Russians to decide whether to further follow up this formal meeting”. Soffer met on July 16 for over two hours with the Soviet Ambassador in Paris who, it is reported, hinted at improved Soviet relations with Israel. French diplomats believe the USSR wants to reestablish diplomatic relations with Israel so as to be able to play a more active role in Mideast affairs and in the forthcoming peace negotiations.

NEXT STORY