NEW YORK (Mar. 29)
A spokes-person for Israel’s Mission to the United Nations confirmed Sunday that a meeting took place at the UN between an Israeli senior official and a diplomat of the People’s Republic of China.
The spokesman, Eyal Arad, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the meeting Friday between Avraham Tamir, Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and Li Luye, China’s permanent representative to the UN, was held within “a UN context and not as a bilateral meeting between the two countries.”
The meeting was reported in Beijing Saturday in a dispatch from the official New China News Agency. But Arad played down any special significance. “Beyond the fact that it’s really important that we meet, there is nothing extraordinary to this meeting,” he said.
He stressed that Tamir and Li, who was President of the Security Council in February, held their talk within the framework of ongoing discussions in the Security Council on the Middle East peace process. No details were revealed.
Arad said he saw no direct connection between the UN talks and developments last week at the Asian-Jewish colloquium in Hong Kong, where it was revealed that hints had been dropped by the People’s Republic that it would like its academicians to study Hebrew and Zionism at Western universities.
“We don’t need to look at such meetings as unusual; they’re becoming the norm,” Arad said, explaining that they were “part of he normalization of Israel’s position in international affairs. This normalization is something we have sought since the creation of the State.”
Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel acknowledged on a radio interview in Jerusalem Friday that Israel was making efforts to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic. He said it was not on the verge of a breakthrough, but rather that there was “a breakthrough of paving the way.”
Sources in Israel said the meeting between Tamir and Li was the first openly acknowledged contact between the two countries, although previous unpublicized meetings have taken place.