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Israeli Cabinet Ministers Embark on Visits to Poland, Soviet Union

The warming trend in relations between Israel and Eastern Europe may grow cozier this week, as a result of two ministerial missions.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres left Monday on a three-day official trip to Poland, while his aides were trying to arrange a visit for him to the Soviet Union before the end of the year.

Avraham Katz-Oz, the minister of agriculture, was due to land in Moscow on Monday, becoming the first Israeli of Cabinet rank to visit the Soviet Union since the Kremlin broke diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967.

Peres, who heads Israel’s Labor Party and is a former prime minister, is scheduled to meet with President Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland, Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Communist Party leader Mieczyslaw Rakowski, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and other prominent figures.

Reports from Warsaw said Peres’ trip had considerable advance coverage in the official news media.

Polish spokesmen were quoted as saying the visit would further improve bilateral relations with Israel, but they do not anticipate an early resumption of full diplomatic ties.

In fact, the Polish Foreign Ministry last week denied a report in an Israeli newspaper that the restoration of relations was imminent. Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Majewski was quoted by the official Polish news agency PAP as saying that the Israeli report “is not true.

“The Polish government is considering the possibility of restoring diplomatic relations with Israel in the not-too-distant future, but it has not taken any decision yet,” he said.

WILL MEET WITH GORBACHEV

Poland and Israel established interest sections in Tel Aviv and Warsaw respectively in 1988. That is the most rudimentary form of diplomatic representation, but it was the first between the two countries in over 20 years.

Peres, who was born in Poland and settled in Palestine as a young boy, will visit the site of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp complex.

Meanwhile, Peres’ foreign policy adviser, Nimrod Novik, will go to Moscow shortly to continue talks that began several weeks ago to set up a visit by Peres.

An invitation has already been extended by the Soviet Peace Committee, and a Soviet delegation is due in Israel shortly to finalize the trip.

Peres will meet Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and other top leaders during the trip, which is expected to take place at the end of December.

Katz-Oz, who is also a Laborite, is in the Soviet Union as a guest of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, an arrangement made necessary by the absence of Soviet-Israeli diplomatic relations.

He is traveling with his senior aides. They will discuss agricultural cooperation with their Soviet counterparts and the possibility of Israel exporting agricultural produce to the USSR.

The Soviet have shown a consistent interest in that area of economic relations.

Katz-Oz was involved in an embarrassing episode last month. On his way to visit Estonia, one of the Soviet Baltic republics, he had to turn back at Helsinki, Finland, because no Soviet visa was waiting for him.

The oversight was attributed to a bureaucratic error.

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