JERUSALEM (Aug. 3)
Israeli and Soviet diplomats are to meet officially in Helsinki, Finland, within two weeks to discuss consular matters and issues pertaining to Soviet property in Israel. This has been confirmed in Jerusalem over the weekend following several weeks of unofficial rumors.
Observers here attach significance to the impending meeting, even though it is formally billed as dealing with relatively unpolitical matters. They feel the Soviets are “signalling ” something merely by their initiative to hold the meeting.
But there is no expectation that the meeting will lead to the early reestablishment of diplomatic relations, which were severed by the USSR and its satellites during the Six-Day War. At most, observers here believe, the meeting could lead to the establishment of consular relations.
Until three years ago, the Finnish Embassy in Tel Aviv maintained a special, separate department to handle Soviet consular interests here and matters of church property. But now, that separate department has been wound up and these matters are taken care of directly by the chancery of the Finnish Embassy
SOVIET TEAM DUE IN ISRAEL
The newspaper Yediot Achronot reported Sunday that the Soviets seek to send a team to Israel for an extended stay, to survey and register all Soviet-owned property.
The Russian Church in Israel is divided into two denominations: the red or Soviet-linked Church, and the white or anti-Soviet Church with its headquarters in New York. Both have properties in Jerusalem, Jaffa and elsewhere. The State of Israel has consistently recognized the red church’s claims in cases of dispute.
Meanwhile, Israel and Poland are making final preparations for the opening, later this month, of interest offices in Warsaw and Tel Aviv, as agreed earlier this year. Observers see that move, too, as evidence of new Eastern Bloc concern to step up presence and involvement in Israel — albeit on a low profile at present.