Finnish Foreign Minister Offers to Convey to Moscow Israel’s Desire to Improve Relations with the Us

Foreign Minister Paavo Matti Vaeyrynen of Finland ended a three-day official visit to Israel Sunday with an offer to convey to Moscow Israel’s desire to improve relations with the Soviet Union and to have emigration restrictions eased for Soviet Jews seeking exit visas to go to Israel.

The Finnish Embassy in Tel Aviv has represented Soviet interests here since Moscow broke diplomatic relations with Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War. Finland maintains close relations with the superpower on its eastern border.

Vaeyrynen is the first Finnish Foreign Minister to visit Israel and, following his meeting with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir last Friday, the Foreign Ministry announced that Shamir has accepted an invitation to visit Finland “in the near future.” No date was announced.

Israel and Finland have sharp policy differences over the Middle East conflict. Vaeyrynen stressed to reporters here that his country supports an independent Palestinian state and inclusion of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Middle East peace talks. Finland, nevertheless, is interested in improving relations with Israel.

Vaeyrynen and Shamir discussed the situation in south Lebanon where Finland provides a contingent to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The two men differed over the UN force. Shamir maintained it was “highly inefficient,” whereas his guest saw UNIFIL as carrying out an important function. He spoke of Finland’s support for the “territorial integrity of Lebanon,” an implied criticism of Israel’s continuing, though limited presence in south Lebanon.

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