UNITED NATIONS (Jun. 9)
An Israeli consular delegation will go to Moscow in the middle of next month and may be allowed to deal with matters relating to Soviet Jewish emigration, Premier Yitzhak Shamir announced Thursday.
Shamir informed Israeli correspondents of the development after emerging from a meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze that lasted one hour and 40 minutes.
At his own meeting with reporters later, Shevardnadze confirmed that the Israeli delegation would be coming to Moscow in mid-July. But asked whether the Israeli officials would be allowed to issue visas in Moscow, he replied “no.”
He said the Israel visit would be in reciprocation for the Soviet consular delegation that has been in Israel since June 1987, officially to look after property of the Russian Orthodox Church. He praised the way the Israelis treated the Soviet delegation, whose visas were recently extended.
Shamir described his session with Shevardnadze as a “very interesting meeting and very thorough, in which each side had an opportunity to present its positions and explain them.” It was Shamir’s first meeting with a Soviet foreign minister since his talks with Andrei Gromyko in New York in 1984.
The Israeli premier told reporters that their conversation was “friendly, productive and useful.” He said the main topics they covered were Soviet Jews and their emigration, the Middle East conflict, and relations between Israel and the Soviet Union.
But Shevardnadze, while describing their meeting as “very useful,” told reporters in reply to a question that he does not see it as leading to a “new stage” in relations between the two countries. The Soviet Union severed diplomatic ties with Israel 21 years ago, after the Six-Day War.
Shamir said he told Shevardnadze that Israel wants all Jews who wish to emigrate to their homeland to be allowed to do so. He also said Jews who live in the Soviet Union should be allowed to practice their religion and culture freely.
‘NO OBSTACLES’ TO JEWISH EMIGRATION
According to Shamir, the Soviet foreign minister said that in his view, there are no difficulties for Jews wishing to leave the USSR and that the Soviet authorities do not care whether they go to Israel or to other countries.
Shevardnadze, who spoke to reporters later, said of Jewish emigration that there are “no obstacles in this area, only some constraints.” Asked what the constraints were he said “only military secrets,” a reference to the fact that some Jews are denied exit visas because their former jobs may have involved knowledge of classified material many years ago.
According to Shamir, the Soviet foreign minister also said he believes the number of Russian Jews emigrating will drop voluntarily, because the Soviet Union is undergoing major changes and efforts are under way to resolve problems in Soviet society.
Shamir said Shevardnadze told him that the Jewish question in the Soviet Union will be on the agenda of the upcoming Soviet Communist Party conference.
On the issue of Israeli-Soviet relations, Shamir said he and Shevardnadze agreed there is a need for normalization of relations between the two countries. But the question is how it should be done, he said.
According to Shamir, normalization means restoring diplomatic ties and re-opening the embassies in each country.
But Shevardnadze made clear that the resumption of diplomatic ties with Israel is “interlocked” with the question of an international conference for Middle East peace.
DEBATE OVER INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
He said he told the Israeli premier that the opening of such a conference “will enable us to settle the issue of our relations with Israel.” He said that Moscow sees such a conference as the “only way” to reach a Middle East settlement.
Shamir acknowledged that Shevardnadze tried to convince him to change his longstanding opposition to an international peace conference.
He said the Soviet diplomat pointed out that U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz has changed his mind and now supports the international conference scenario and so should Shamir.
But the Israeli premier stuck to his position that the best way to solve the Middle East conflict is by direct negotiations between all parties.
Moscow wants an international peace conference sponsored by the United Nations Security Council, with the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Shamir said.
Although these differences remain, Shamir said he “came out of the meeting encouraged, because I saw that there is a willingness on the part of the Soviets to reach an understanding with us and to take our views and positions into consideration.”
He said the importance of the meeting was the fact that it was held and that views were exchanged, though no new ideas were presented.
He said that he and the Soviet foreign minister did not set a date for another meeting, but he assumed they would meet again in the future.
“We had a very friendly and warm conversation,” Shamir said, summing up the exchange. Each leader was accompanied by his top aides. Shevardnadze spoke in Russian with a translator and Shamir spoke in English.