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Trade Linked to Peace Progress, European Leader Tells Arens

Israel’s economic relations with the European Community are inextricably linked to political movement toward resolution of the Middle East conflict.

That was the message conveyed here Tuesday to Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens by Jacques Delors, president of the European Executive Commission.

Delors visited Arens at his hotel, a courtesy appreciated by the Israelis as a sign of the importance he attaches to European relations with Israel.

But during his subsequent meeting with Arens and the Israeli ambassadors to the 12 E.C. member states summoned here to discuss future relations with Europe, Delors was friendly but stern, diplomatic sources said.

He made clear that the E.C. cannot dissociate its economic relationship with Israel from the political dialogue.

That apparently means that the chances of increased economic cooperation with Israel will depend on the evolution of the Middle East situation.

Arens, who also met for an hour Tuesday with his Belgian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mark Eyskens, reportedly replied that Israel is ready for dialogue with the E.C. on both political and economic levels.

“We are ready to hear their opinion, but they also have to hear ours,” he was quoted as saying.

The political dialogue at the moment is centered around Israel, the United States and Egypt, who are striving for agreement on an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue to be held in Cairo.

TALKS WITH U.S. IN PROGRESS

Arens said Tuesday that “procedural talks” are in progress among the three parties. He said he was confident they would lead to a consensus on the technicalities of Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the first phase of Israel’s peace initiative.

Before leaving for a visit to Luxembourg on Wednesday, Arens told reporters that Israel agrees with the five-point plan proposed by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker to effect a dialogue between Israelis and a Palestinian delegation.

But “a number of small but significant changes must be made,” he said.

He explained that Israel seeks an understanding with the Americans about the framework for a dialogue on the election plan.

Arens said a great deal of progress has been made through daily contacts with Baker and the Egyptian foreign minister, Esmat Abdel Meguid.

He stressed, however, that Israel will under no circumstances engage in talks with a delegation in any way associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Arens’ trip to Brussels, where the E.C. is headquartered, was occasioned by concerns about Israel’s economic future with Europe.

The ambassadors to the E.C. countries met here at his behest to consider Israel’s trade prospects with Europe after 1992, when the community abolishes all internal trade barriers but may erect tariff walls against outsiders.

Israel already has a $3.5 billion trade deficit with the community.

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