Ethioplan Foreign Minister Says Jews Can Continue to Emigrate

Ethiopia will continue to allow Jews to emigrate to Israel whether or not it receives weapons from Israel, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tesfaye Dinka said at a news conference Thursday.

“I categorically reject any kind of linkage” between the receipt of cluster bombs or other weapons from Israel and the emigration flow, Tesfaye said, speaking at the National Press Club.

The flow of Ethiopian Jews to Israel “never included the question of military supplies,” he said.

Tesfaye attributed recent reports of a drop in Jewish emigration to joint efforts by Ethiopia and Israel to stop non-Jews from fleeing to Israel, “which might have been interpreted by others as an attempt to reduce” the Jewish flow to Israel, he said.

Since last fall, when Ethiopia resumed full diplomatic relations with Israel after a 16-year lapse, Ethiopia has been allowing its estimated 15,000 Jews to emigrate to Israel at a rate of 500 a month, but that rate has slowed significantly in recent weeks.

The American Association for Ethiopian Jews reports a three-week full in Jewish emigration that was revived this week, when eight families, or 35 people, were allowed to emigrate, said Robin Schwartz, the AAEJ spokeswoman.

Ethiopia is allowing the emigration to “facilitate the reunification of families,” Tesfaye said. He said the separations occurred “without the knowledge of the government” in the mid 1980s, when Ethiopian Jews escaped to neighboring Sudan and then flew secretly to Israel.

MEETINGS AT UNITED NATIONS

Tesfaye has held meetings at the United Nations in New York and at the State Department here with Herman Cohen, assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, and Aaron Miller, a member of the department’s policy planning staff.

He also met with members of Congress and was to meet late Thursday with Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

Tesfaye was here to discuss possible resolutions to the 25-year-old civil war in Ethiopia, which lately has seen rebel forces present the current government with its clearest threat to date.

Tesfaye said that in the “many months” that he has held his post, Ethiopia has not imported cluster bombs “from any source,” including Israel.

But when asked later about a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report that former Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin recently disclosed that Israel sold cluster bombs to Ethiopia prior to 1979, Tesfaye did not categorically deny that report.

“I don’t know what was happening in the 1970s,” Tesfaye said.

The matter has been of particular concern lately during the escalation in the civil war. News reports have blamed cluster bombs dropped by government forces for inflicting massive casualties on the civilian population.

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