JERUSALEM (Jul. 13)
A three-man Soviet consular delegation arrived in Israel without fanfare Sunday night and is scheduled to meet with Israeli consular and legal officials at the Foreign Ministry here Tuesday.
They are the first official Soviet mission to visit Israel since Moscow broke diplomatic relations in 1967. Israeli officials stressed they were here for a specific purpose related to Soviet property and nationals in Israel, and there are no plans at present for political talks.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres urged Monday that the visit “not be blown out of proportion,” He said the delegation was relatively low-level. He would consider meeting with them if they requested it, but so far there has been no request, Peres said.
The Soviet officials are Yevgeny Antipov, head of the Consular Department at the Soviet Foreign Ministry; Alexei Chestiakov, an expert on Middle East affairs; and Genryk Flachin. They were accompanied by staff. Flachin attended a meeting with Israeli officials in Helsinki last August, which the Soviets broke off when the Israelis raised the issue of Soviet Jews.
But the idea of a Soviet consular mission emerged from that brief meeting. The Soviet officials spent Monday visiting with the heads of the Russian Orthodox Church in west Jerusalem.
The task of the delegation is to renew the passports of Soviet citizens here, most of them-attached to the Church, and to review the status of Soviet property, most of it Church property.
Antipov, who spoke briefly to Israeli reporters, was non-committal about a possible Soviet role in an international conference for Middle East peace. He said that as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, “certainly our role should be taken into consideration.” Asked if the conference should be able to “impose” solutions, Antipov replied, “I believe it is too early to talk about it.”
The Soviet group is staying at a hotel in Tel Aviv.