WASHINGTON (Dec. 13)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir left Washington on Thursday having achieved much good will, if not any specific gains. But in both his meetings with President Bush at the White House and with President Bush at the White House and with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, the fact that they occurred at all was the most important outcome.
Shevardnadze and Shamir appeared at a joint news conference Wednesday night, further evidence of the improved relations between the Soviet Union and Israel since Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.
However, Shamir did not get Shevardnadze to grant his request that the Soviet Union restore full diplomatic relations with Israel, which were broken by the Soviets after the 1967 Six-Day War.
“We have consular relations” and “are moving toward” full diplomatic relations, said Shevardnadze. “A process is developing in a normal fashion.”
Shevardnadze denied that any preconditions were being set for the restoration of diplomatic relations.
“This process will evolve in a normal manner,” he said. “of course, generally we want normal relations with all countries, and you can draw your conclusions.”
DIRECT FLIGHTS REJECTED
Shevardnadze also rejected Shamir’s request for direct flights between Moscow and Israel to facilitate the emigration of Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel.
“The Soviet minister told us there are some problems that we have to settle, and he hopes they will be settled in the immediate future,” Shamir said.
In both instances, Soviet reluctance to move on the issue of flights is believed to be based on a desire not to offend Arab states.
Shamir indicated that Israel would welcome a Soviet role in the Middle East peace process, something it had long sought to prevent.
In turn, Shevardnadze seemed to be moving away from Soviet insistence on an international conference to deal with the Arab-Israel conflict.
He said that he and Shamir agreed that what is needed is a “serious dialogue. “How the dialogue should be conducted could be worked out, Shevardnadze said.
The 75-minute meeting between Shamir and Shevardnadze at Shamir’s hotel Wednesday night was the second meeting between the two leaders. They met some two years ago at the United Nations in New York.
Shamir’s two-hour meeting Tuesday with Bush did not result in any concrete steps forward, except to provide Israel with a promise that any solution of the Gulf crisis would not be at the expense of Israel.
But the meeting was important because it was the first encounter between the two leaders in over a year, and the first direct contact of any kind between them since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2. Since then, Bush has telephoned almost every friendly world leader except for Shamir.
Both Bush and Shamir went out of their way to show that their reported enmity did not exist or at least was being put behind them.
On Thursday, the same ground was covered during a one-hour breakfast meeting between Shamir and Secretary of State James Baker.
“In a good and friendly meeting, the importance of moving forward on the peace process in the aftermath of the Gulf crisis was stressed,” said a statement issued by the Israeli Embassy.
The statement said the discussion on the peace process will continue when Dennis Ross, head of the State Department’s policy-planning staff, goes to Israel soon. Ross accompanied Baker to the meeting in Shamir’s hotel.
“On the Gulf crisis situation, the prime minister reiterated Israel’s support for President Bush’s policy in the Gulf, and expressed Israel’s concerns over the Iraqi threat,” the embassy statement said.