WASHINGTON (Jan. 26)
The Soviet Union wants to improve its consular-level relations with Israel, Yuri Dubinin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, said late Wednesday.
Dubinin, speaking at the Soviet Embassy to reporters and representatives of the Lubavitch movement, said he also would like to see the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Israel.
The Soviet Union “is not responsible for the absence of relations,” said Dubinin, He said that progress on restoring them “will depend on Israel.”
He said full relations could be restored as part of a Middle East peace settlement. But he added, “It is not our demand for Israel to do something specific” for relations to be upgraded.
The Soviets severed relations in 1967, but Dubinin noted that in 1948, his country was one of the first to recognize Israel’s existence.
The Soviet Union supports an international peace conference on the Middle East that includes itself, the United States, China, France and Great Britain as co-sponsors, Dubinin said.
He said having the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and not just the superpowers, “could assure more authority” to such a forum.
The Soviet ambassador was asked whether his government favors direct flights from the Soviet Union to Israel for Jews emigrating on Israeli visas.
RESTORATION OF LUBAVITCH TOWN
Dubinin replied: “All of the persons from Jewish origin who desire to leave the Soviet Union and who has received the visa is absolutely free to buy a ticket to any direction and to leave the Soviet Union.”
“It is a complete freedom,” Dubinin said. “Those who would like to go directly to Israel are free to do it.”
Conversely, those who want to go the United States via Vienna are also free to do so, he added.
At the embassy, Rabbi Noson Gurary, upstate New York regional director of Chabad House-Bais Lubavitch, presented Dubinin with a 15-inch high sterling silver menorah and a book, entitled “The Lamplighter,” that tells of Lubavitch’s work worldwide.
In return, Gurary proposed that the Soviet town of Lubavitch “be restored to look like a shtetl, to look like a little town looked like 200 years ago.”
Lubavitch, where the Hasidic movement bearing the same name began, is near Smolensk, close to the border of the Soviet Republic of Byelorussia.
Responding diplomatically to Gurary’s proposal, Dubinin said, “We will try to do it.”