NEW YORK (Sep. 29)
Israel is satisfied that the Soviet Union is taking meaningful measures to remove obstacles in the way of Jewish emigration, Israeli officials indicated Thursday, after a meeting here between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Petrovsky.
But differences between the two countries remain. Moscow is insisting that the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries be conditional on the convening of an international conference for Middle East peace.
Israel further finds objectionable the Soviets’ continued elevation of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the rightful representative of the Palestinian people, entitled to speak for them in the peace process.
Those were the key points that emerged after the two diplomats conferred for 90 minutes at the Park Lane Hotel, a meeting that had been scheduled to last only a half-hour.
Petrovsky was substituting for Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who was suddenly called home for an urgent meeting Friday of the Soviet Communist Party’s Central Committee.
Petrovsky and Peres each answered reporters’ questions after their get-together. The substance of their meeting was elaborated on later by an aide to Peres, who briefed Israeli reporters.
According to the aide, the two discussed the situation in the Middle East, bilateral relations and the issues of Soviet Jewry.
Petrovsky indicated that a story appearing in The New York Times Thursday regarding the Soviets relaxing steps in the emigration process was essentially correct.
The Soviet Union is undergoing a process of liberalization, including changes in its immigration policy, Petrovsky said.
“The highest international standards will be applied” by the Soviet Union on the subject of emigration, Petrovsky said.
One measure eliminated, according to The Times, was the requirement that would-be emigrants must have an invitation from a close blood relative living abroad.
According to the aide, Peres noted to Petrovsky that there has been real progress on the issue of Soviet Jewry since his meeting with Shevardnadze here in September 1987.
He said that all “prisoners of Zion” have been released and Jewish emigration has increased tenfold.
But Peres emphasized to Petrovsky the importance of giving Soviet Jews cultural autonomy and freedom to learn Hebrew and open more synagogues.
He also presented the Soviet official with a list of Jewish refuseniks asking permission to emigrate, the aide said.
According to the aide, Petrovsky indicated that the Soviet Union is adopting a new approach, and that these subjects are being discussed in the USSR today.
After the meeting, Peres told reporters “We had a very friendly talk. We have made some progress, but not enough.”
Peres said he sees no reason why the Soviet Union will not re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
However, Petrovsky said that Moscow will resume relations with Israel once there is progress for peace in the form of an international peace conference.
INSTRUMENT OF PEACE
Peres, who supports the idea of an international conference to lead to direct Israeli-Arab negotiations, nevertheless pointed out that diplomatic ties “are not a prize but an instrument” to advance the peace process.
Petrovsky also said that Moscow views the PLO as the only legal representative of the Palestinian people that should participate in a peace conference.
According to Peres’ aide, the foreign minister disagreed with the Russian assessment that the PLO is in the process of change toward realism and restraint.
With respect to bilateral issue, Petrovsky said the Soviets had decided to give additional three-month visas to the Israeli consular delegation, which has been in Moscow since July.
Their original visas were only for two months. The Soviet deputy foreign minister said he hoped Israel would reciprocate and extend the visas of the Soviet consular mission, which has been in Tel Aviv since June 1987. Israel has regularly extended those visas.
Peres suggested, according to his aide, that the Soviet Union expand economic and cultural ties with Israel.