JERUSALEM (Sep. 20)
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres indicated Sunday that the Soviet consular mission which came to Israel last July will ask for an extension of their three-month visa, due to expire soon, and it would be granted.
Peres spoke to reporters on the eve of his departure for the United Nations General Assembly session in New York where he will meet with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze on Wednesday.
If the Soviet mission extends its stay for another three months, many observers believe it would be a definite step toward establishing a Soviet interests section in Israel, a low level form of diplomatic relations but more than has existed since Moscow broke all ties with Israel 20 years ago during the Six-Day War. Poland has established an interests section in Tel Aviv and Hungary will do so shortly.
The Soviet delegation established an office in Tel Aviv when it arrived here but insisted its mission was only to examine the status of Soviet nationals living in Israel and to inspect Soviet property, mainly property of the Russian Orthodox Church.
But last Friday, the delegation’s head, Yevgeny Antipov, a senior official of the consular division of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, paid a call on the political Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Yossi Beilin, to discuss, among other things, the forthcoming Peres-Shevardnadze meeting. It was the first time Antipov called on an Israeli diplomat to discuss matters not related to the officially stated purpose of his mission.
Meanwhile, Peres said at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting and in public statements later that he would reiterate from the UN podium his call for an international peace conference for the Middle East to serve as a framework of direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab states.
Peres met with Premier Yitzhak Shamir last Friday and reportedly agreed to note, in his diplomatic conversations in New York, that the Likud half of the unity government opposes his advocacy of an international conference.