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Kremlin Official Signals His Country Will Restore Ties to Israel This Week

The Soviet Union is expected Friday to announce the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Israel, which it broke nearly 24 years ago during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The formal announcement will be made when Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh arrives in Jerusalem on Friday, or the day after, a top Kremlin official told Israel Radio Monday.

But there was no official confirmation in either Moscow or Jerusalem.

Foreign Minister David Levy said here Monday, “I cannot guess, predict, confirm or deny voices that come from there (Moscow) on this matter. I will hear the foreign minister when he arrives here and will wait for the decisions and the fact,” Levy told Israel Radio.

Andrei Grachov, foreign policy adviser to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, was quoted by Israel Radio’s Paris correspondent, Gideon Kotz, who is in Moscow.

According to Kotz, Grachov said the resumption of diplomatic ties with Israel was a natural component of Bessmertnykh’s visit to Israel, the first ever by a top-ranking Soviet diplomat.

Israel had made clear that the Soviet Union could not play an active role in the Middle East peace process with the United States unless it first restored full diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.

Bessmertnykh will visit Damascus and Amman before coming to Israel on Friday for talks with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Levy. He will go on from there to Cairo and possibly Beirut.

The Soviet foreign minister will also have another meeting with Secretary of State James Baker, who will return to the region this week for another attempt to nudge Israel and the Arabs toward a peace conference.

Baker and Bessmertnykh last met on April 25 in the Caucasus resort town of Kislovodsk.

Bessmertnykh’s spokesman, Vitaly Churkin, was quoted Monday as saying Baker’s initiative had in effect failed and that the Soviet statesman was coming to the region with some new ideas.

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