Menu JTA Search

Gorbachev Asks France to Fly Several Thousand Jews from the USSR to Israel on Special Airlift

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has asked France to fly several thousand Soviet Jews from the USSR to Israel on a special airlift originally planned to precede his upcoming summit meeting with President Reagan in Geneva November 19. The plan, which Gorbachev discussed with President Francois Mitterrand during his visit to. Paris earlier this month, has been dropped or delayed for the time being. Meanwhile, French experts are studying its practical aspects.

This information, which was published in Le Monde, was apparently made public by the French government after Israeli Premier Shimon Peres told a news conference,following his luncheon meeting with Mitterrand Friday,that France might fly Soviet Jews directly to Israel.

At the news conference, Peres revealed that Mitterrand had told him that if the Soviet government would allow the direct flight of Jews from the USSR to Israel, France would gladly supply the planes for the airlift.

Later in the afternoon, Peres met with French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, reportedly for a more in-depth discussion of the subject of Soviet Jewry. The French Foreign Ministry announced today that Dumas will pay his first visit to Israel, scheduled for December 9-10.

Peres said at the Friday news conference that he had discussed the liberalization of emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union and the loosening of restrictions on them — as well as the restoration of diplomatic ties between the USSR and Israel — with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze when they met in New York last Wednesday night at a reception connected with the 40th anniversary of the UN. He told reporters he did not believe there would be any change in the Soviet position “at least not till the forthcoming Reagan-Gorbachev summit.”

Peres added that, given the choice between an increase in the number of Jews allowed to leave the Soviet Union and a restoration of diplomatic relations between that country and Israel, he would opt for larger Jewish emigration “without the slightest hesitation.” Meanwhile, Poland announced last week that its government and that of Israel would open interest sections in each other’s countries, which have no official diplomatic relations.

NEXT STORY