JERUSALEM (May. 15)
Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union is “a problem that should be dealt with,” Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze reportedly told the president of the World Jewish Congress this weekend in Moscow.
Shevardnadze held a meeting with WJC leader Edgar Bronfman as a prelude to the summit conference between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, to be held in Moscow from May 29 to June 2.
Bronfman, who arrived here on a direct flight from Moscow this weekend, met with Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir and told the Israeli leader that this was the first such statement by a senior Soviet official.
Bronfman has held several meeting in the past with high-ranking Soviet officials in which the issue of Jewish emigration has been discussed.
Following his meeting with Shamir, Bronfman also told journalists that he had been given a message from Shevardnadze to Shamir, but he refused to disclose its contents.
At the news conference, Shamir described Bronfman’s report as “a very interesting one” and said he agreed with the Jewish leader that this is the time to step up efforts for Soviet Jewish emigration.
In addition to his encounter with Shevardnadze, Bronfman also met with other high-ranking Soviet officials and said he detected “a new positive atmosphere,” which is bound to influence the issue of Jewish emigration as well as Soviet-Israeli relations.
Bronfman, whose private jet landed at Atarot Airport, just north of Jerusalem, said his direct flight to Israel caused much excitement at the Moscow airport.
FATE OF ‘PERESTROIKA’ IN DOUBT
While in Moscow, Bronfman also met with Jewish activists. He said they conveyed a sense of urgency for the need to act speedily, making optimum use of Moscow’s new attitude toward expanding Jewish cultural rights and increased emigration. The activists expressed concern that Gorbachev’s “perestroika” (restructuring) will not last long.
Bronfman told reporters that in the matters of the Middle East peace process and an international conference, Soviet officials had expressed varying views, but had all stressed Soviet support for a role for the United Nations in the political process. Shevardnadze last week appeared to welcome the peace plan advanced by U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz. Speaking in Geneva at a news conference at the Soviet mission to the United Nations there, the foreign minister said, “The Shultz plan for the Middle East comprises elements which if implemented could help in reaching a solution to the conflict.”
“As you know, the USSR is for an international peace conference with the participation of all the members of the Security Council,” Shevardnadze said.
Asked whether the visit last week of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to Hungary could signal a warming of relations between Israel and the Soviet Union, Shevardnadze said, “The visit of Peres in Hungary does not affect the relations between the USSR and Israel. It is an independent visit.”
(Geneva correspondent Tamar Levy contributed to this report.)