Shevardnadze Asks U.S. to Prevent Olim from Settling in Territories

The Soviet Union on Wednesday asked the United States to use “all its influence” to prevent the settlement of Soviet immigrants in the administered territories.

Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, here for international talks on the future of a united Germany, told reporters he had asked U.S. Secretary of State James Baker for America “to use its influence and its authority to ensure that the Jewish immigrants (from the Soviet Union) are not settled” in the territories.

The Soviet Union has come under mounting pressure from Arab states and from the Palestine Liberation Organization to stop the emigration of Soviet Jews, who they fear will settle in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, changing forever the demographics of the disputed areas.

Shevardnadze clearly rejected curtailing Soviet Jewish emigration outright. “We place no obstacle to the departure of all the Jews who want to leave,” he said, “but what worries us is the problem of settling people from the Soviet Union in the occupied territories.”

“The Arabs have a legitimate reason to worry about this,” he said.

But last weekend, a prominent Soviet journalist visiting Israel said he himself had witnessed only a handful of Soviet Jews settling in the administered territories.

Sergei Volovetz, foreign editor of the liberal newspaper Moscow News, told Israel army radio that those few immigrants he encountered in the territories were mainly Soviet Jews who had come to Israel in the 1970s.

He said the current wave of olim were city-dwellers who, he believed, would not want to settle in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

In Paris, the Soviet foreign minister met with Baker for over two-and-a-half hours Wednesday morning, but the Middle East was only “briefly mentioned,” as most of their discussions centered on German reunification, Cambodia and Afghanistan.

Baker reportedly told the Soviets that he will “know better how matters stand in the Middle East” after his forthcoming meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, Soviet sources reported.

The secretary of state had asked Levy to meet with him here at this time, but Levy, who recently suffered a mild heart attack, was advised not to travel. The two men are now expected to meet next month in Washington.

The American and Soviet foreign ministers are scheduled to meet again in September in Moscow. Soviet sources say they expect the two will thoroughly review the Middle East situation then, after the Americans will have heard the Israeli response to their questions.

(JTA correspondent David Landau in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

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