PARIS (Jun. 17)
A two-man Soviet consular delegation of fairly high level will visit Israel next month, Le Monde reported Wednesday. The paper’s Moscow correspondent said the delegation, headed by Evgeni Antipov, Deputy Chief of the Soviet Foreign Ministry’s Consular Affairs Department, applied for Israeli visas Tuesday at the Dutch Embassy in Moscow, which represents Israel’s interests in the Soviet Union.
The report quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov as saying that the mission’s task will be “to ascertain the situation of Soviet-owned property in Israel and to provide consular services for Soviet citizens living in Israel.”
The Soviet Union inherited more than a dozen properties in Jerusalem from the Czarist regime. Several hundred monks and nuns holding Soviet nationality live in Israel.
Other reports quoted Guerassimov as ruling out a reciprocal visit to Moscow by a similar Israeli delegation. He said there is no Israeli property in the Soviet Union and that no Israeli citizens live in the USSR.
Le Monde’s correspondent suggested that the real aim of the mission “is to test the reaction of the Arab countries” to a visit by Soviet officials to Israel. The only other contact between Soviet and Israeli officials occurred in Helsinki in August 1986. Moscow dispatched two low-ranking consular officers to meet with Israeli diplomats. The Soviets walked out of the meeting after one day when the Israelis raised questions about Soviet Jews. They claimed the subject was “outside their competence” and not on the agenda.