Unofficial Hungarian Trade Group Comes to Israel on Direct Flight

A large Hungarian trade delegation is in Israel to promote commercial ties between the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations.

The 150-member group includes business leaders and officials of the Hungarian Finance Ministry and Hungarian Chamber of Commerce.

The delegation arrived here Saturday night in two chartered Soviet-made Tupolov jets owned by Malev, the Hungarian national airline.

The flight was a preview of the regular air service scheduled to begin, most likely in April, between Budapest and Tel Aviv. It will be provided jointly by Malev and EI AI, Israel’s national air carrier.

The service will be inaugurated after agreement is reached between the two governments on security arrangements for Israeli planes demanded by EI AI.

The Hungarian visitors were the guests Monday morning of the Israel Industrialists Association. They were scheduled later to visit the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange.

Finished diamonds are one of Israel’s major exports. Commerce and Industry Minister Ariel Sharon has hinted he would like to see Israel purchase rough diamonds from the Soviet Union to avoid dependence on the London-based De Beers sales organization, which has a monopoly on diamonds from South Africa.

Hungary could serve as an intermediary for the import of rough stones from the Soviet Union. Israel currently has neither diplomatic nor official trade relations with the USSR.

The delegation leaders stressed that their visit is unofficial. They observed, however, that improved trade relations would inevitably lead to “other relations.”

There is, in fact, an unofficial flow of trade between Israel and Hungary, amounting to some $20 million a year. The delegation hopes to raise the level of exchange and make it official.

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