GENEVA (Sep. 14)
Israel and Hungary signed an agreement in Bern Monday morning to establish interest sections in their respective countries. It is the lowest level of diplomatic representation but could be a precursor to stronger ties in the future.
The signing ceremonies, which lasted an hour, were held in private. At the request of the Hungarians, no media was allowed. The Israeli participants were Yeshayahu Anug, Deputy Director General of the Foreign Ministry, legal adviser Victor Harel, and Israel’s Ambassador to Switzerland, David Rivlin.
Hungary was represented by Yanos Goros, head of the legal department at the Foreign Ministry, and Wilmos Kopanyi, head of the political section.
A FIRST STEP
Anug told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Israel accepted the Hungarian position that this should be a first step and not normalization of full diplomatic relations. Israel decided to have something rather than say “We want everything or nothing,” Anug said.
He added that Israel has to be practical and develop new economic, cultural and tourist relations with Hungary. He said both sides spoke openly of the limitations which, for the time being, do not permit deeper relations.
Hungary has followed the footsteps of Poland which established an interests section in Tel Aviv earlier this year. Israel simultaneously set up an interests section in Warsaw. Apart from Rumania, they are the only Communist-bloc countries to reestablish any form of diplomatic relations with Israel since they severed ties during the 1967 Six-Day War. Rumania alone never broke with Israel and the two countries maintain full diplomatic relations on the ambassadorial level.
Last spring a Soviet consular delegation visited Israel for the first time to review the status of Soviet nationals there and inspect Soviet property. They rented an office in Ramat Gan which some observers believed would become the nucleus of a permanent consular establishment.
This has not yet transpired and the Soviets have refused to allow Israel to send a similar delegation to the USSR.
The ceremonies in Bern were also attended by the Swedish Ambassador to Switzerland whose country represents Hungarian interests in Israel. Reporters remarked that the Hungarians emerging from the ceremony looked grim, “more like returning from a funeral.”