Spain and Israel to Broaden Cultural and Commercial Ties

Spain and Israel have set up a joint panel of senior officials to plan a major broadening of cultural and commercial ties between the two countries.

This is one immediate and practical upshot of the current official visit here by Spanish Foreign Minister Francisco Fernandez Ordonez–the first-ever visit by a Spanish Cabinet member to Israel.

The Spanish Minister met Wednesday with President Chaim Herzog and Education Minister Yitzhak Navon following his talks Tuesday with Premier Shimon Peres and Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

The two countries established diplomatic ties nine months ago, following a meeting in Holland between Peres and Spanish Premier Felipe Gonzales, who are friends and long-time colleagues on the Socialist International.

Spain had pledged repeatedly since the death of Franco that it would end the anomaly of its diplomatic boycott of Israel. It eventually took the step following its entry into the European Economic Community (EEC).

In their statements at the arrival ceremony and at a dinner Tuesday night both Fernandez Ordonez and Shamir welcomed the visit which Shamir termed “historically and politically significant.”

RECALLS ANCIENT TIES BETWEEN SPAIN AND JEWS

Fernandez Ordonez recalled the close ancient ties between Spain and the Jewish people until the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

The Minister said that the Jews had been so prominent in Spanish life at that time, referring in particular to the role of Moses Maimonides, the Rambam, that even the inscription on the grave of King Alfonso IV was engraved in Hebrew characters as well as in Spanish and Latin.

Shamir, too, spoke of the Golden Age in Spain, noting that the Judeo-Spanish language, Ladino, spoken by Sephardic Jews who trace their ancestry to “Sepharad” or Spain is a pure form of medieval Spanish.

MIDDLE EAST ISSUES DISCUSSED

The Spanish Foreign Minister, while expressing his hopes for peace in the Middle East and for security for Israel, could not hide his concern, however, for the Palestinians. He noted that his country supports their right to self-determination.

Fernandez Ordonez began his three-day visit to Israel Tuesday morning with an hour-long tour of Yad Vashem, the museum of the Holocaust, where he spoke of the “complicity” of those who had remained silent during the Holocaust.

Later in the day the Foreign Minister met separately with Peres and with Shamir, to discuss cooperation between the two countries and problems of the Middle East.

The two countries agreed to set up a joint committee to study increased bilateral cooperation in the fields of tourism, science, technology, culture and consular affairs. Shamir asked Fernandez Ordonez for Spain’s help on EEC quotas for Israel’s agricultural exports to the European Community. The visitor remained non-committal, though officials interpreted his declaration that he had come to Israel “to open a door and window” as meaning that Spain might be more flexible during the upcoming EEC discussions on the subject.

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