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Progress in Relations with China Reported by Visitors to Beijing

Significant progress toward the normalization of relations between China and Israel has been reported by two Israeli diplomats who just returned from a weeklong visit to Beijing.

At the same time, “a landmark development in Chinese-Jewish relations” has been reported by a World Jewish Congress delegation that was received last Friday in Beijing by two of China’s top leaders.

Moshe Yegar, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director for Asian and Far Eastern affairs, and David Afek, who heads the ministry’s research department, explained why they see a thaw in Israel’s relations with the last remaining major Communist power.

During their five-day visit, the Chinese announced that they would grant diplomatic status to a delegation from the Israeli Academy of Sciences presently in China. Though an academic group, it includes professional diplomats, as does the Chinese Tourist Office delegation in Israel.

So a form of diplomatic exchange does exist between the two countries, Yegar and Afek pointed out.

In addition, the Chinese officials surprised them by announcing during their visit that thereafter they would publicize contacts with Israelis.

For China, that breaks new ground and can only advance the normalization process. Israelis expect Beijing to send a Middle East expert to Israel shortly, along with a delegation from China’s Foreign Trade Ministry.

DISGUST WITH ZIONISM RESOLUTION

Leaders of the WJC delegation reported, meanwhile, that Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen and other government leaders expressed strong reservations and feelings of disgust with the 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution denigrating Zionism as racism.

“It was made abundantly plain to us that China today regards the wording of that resolution as a gross distortion of the truth and a slanderous slur on the Jewish people,” Isi Leibler, co-chairman of WJC’s governing board, said in a statement issued in Beijing.

Leibler predicted China would dissociate itself from that “repugnant resolution” as soon as it is “politically feasible.”

He said the foreign minister mentioned that he has had meetings with three Israeli foreign ministers in recent years: Shimon Peres, Moshe Arens and, most recently, David Levy, whom he saw at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Leibler said he was “extremely encouraged” by the warmth displayed by Foreign Minister Qian and Wan Li, chairman of the Standing Committee of the People’s National Congress, and by their “sincere interest in improving relations between our two ancient peoples.”

Qian further indicated that China would welcome a role in the Middle East peace process, though it is far removed geographically and has no vested interest in the region, Leibler said.

Once the Palestinian issue is resolved, the last remaining obstacles to a far-reaching Chinese-Jewish rapprochement will be removed, the Chinese foreign minister made clear. Leibler reportedly agreed with his hosts to hold a round of Sino-Jewish talks in April 1992.

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