JERUSALEM (Aug. 31)
Simcha Dinitz returned here Tuesday night from a visit to Yugoslavia, the first by an Israeli official since Belgrade severed relations with the Jewish state following the Six-Day War of 1967.
Dinitz, who is chairman of the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Executive, held an unprecedented meeting with the Yugoslav foreign minister. He was accompanied by Mendel Kaplan, chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, and Israel Singer, secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, which arranged the meeting.
Dinitz, who also serves on the WJC Executive, told reporters upon his arrival here that Yugoslav Foreign Minister Budimir Loncar stressed his country’s special friendship with the Israeli people and its desire to help advance practical bilateral matters and the Middle East peace process.
He added, however, that Loncar was critical of Israeli policies.
On Monday, Dinitz, Kaplan and Singer addressed delegates of the European branch of the World Union of Jewish Students, the WJC student organization, which is holding its annual conference in Yugoslavia.
The meeting, which is taking place in the Montenegro region, is the first the group has ever held in a Communist country.
BILATERAL TIES DISCUSSED
On Tuesday, the WJC delegation met in Belgrade with Loncar. Their hour-long discussion included the subject of bilateral relations between Israel and Yugoslavia, and the questions of trade, tourism and direct flights between the countries.
In New York, WJC executive director Elan Steinberg said this week’s meetings follow upon talks in July 1987 between WJC President Edgar Bronfman and Yugoslav leader Lazar Mojsov.
According to Steinberg, Mojsov said at that time that “he would work toward better relations with the Jewish world as a whole and the State of Israel.”
Shortly after that meeting, Tanjug, the official Yugoslavian news agency, opened an office in Jerusalem. In January 1988, the Yugoslav ambassador to the United Nations, Marko Kosin, urged closer ties with Israel in remarks at U.N. European headquarters in Geneva.
“Yugoslavia recognizes the fact that Israel should have a right to her sovereignty,” he said at the time.
At Tuesday’s meeting in Belgrade, Singer handed the Yugoslav foreign minister a declassified 1948 U.S. Army wanted list of 50,000 Nazi war criminals, compiled after the war. It includes the name of Kurt Waldheim, wanted for murder, Steinberg told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Besides meeting with the foreign minister, the WJC delegation also conferred with representatives of the Jewish community in Belgrade. Talks focused on plans to expand Jewish education there with Jewish Agency funding and to strengthen the community’s ties with Israel.
In the past five months, Dinitz has visited three other Communist countries, Romania, Poland and Hungary, and is reported to be planning to visit the Soviet Union in September. In each instance, he has come away with tangible benefits in relations between the governments of those country and Israel.
(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem and JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum in New York.)