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Israelis Elated on Direct Flights, Maintain USSR Will Honor Its Word

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Israeli officials were jubilant Monday in anticipation of direct flights between Moscow and Tel Aviv, which are expected to begin at the end of this month.

They said the Kremlin would honor its commitment, even though Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze seemed vague on the subject when he met Sunday with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy at the United Nations in New York.

The carriers will be El Al and Aeroflot, the national airlines of Israel and the Soviet Union respectively.

Shevardnadze and Levy announced that their countries have upgraded their diplomatic representation to the consular level.

But when asked about direct flights, the Soviet diplomat said it was “a complex question, and we decided that we will return to that question again.”

Transport Ministry officials noted here that Shevardnadze did not rule out direct flights but only remarked that the issue was complicated and needed time to work out.

Absorption Minister Yitzhak Peretz thought the Soviet foreign minister’s statement was “tactical, intended to take Arab pressure off the Kremlin.”

Other officials suggested that Shevardnadze, who has been in New York since the U.N. General Assembly opened last month, was not current with the moves and thinking of President Mikhail Gorbachev.

He also may have been surprised by the prior announcement in Jerusalem, they said.

Professor Eliahu Zamtov, who is adviser to Science and Energy Minister Yuval Ne’eman and has himself met with Gorbachev, referred to the telephone call that Soviet Finance Minister Valentin Pavlov made right after Yom Kippur to Israeli Transport Minister Moshe Katsav about inaugurating direct flights.

Zamtov said this had not come about by chance and was no surprise.

There have been several important developments in the past month, he noted. He referred to Gorbachev’s meeting with Ne’eman and Israeli Finance Minister Yitzhak Moda’i last month, which he arranged.

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