JERUSALEM (Oct. 17)
Soviet Foreign Minister Boris Pankin held what was officially described as a “frank and constructive talk here Thursday with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy.
But he did not make the long-anticipated announcement that the Soviet Union was restoring full diplomatic relations with Israel, which it broke during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Instead, Pankin scheduled a second, unplanned working session with Levy for noon Friday. He said diplomatic ties were discussed at their initial talk, but he had no specific message with respect to timing.
Pankin is the second Soviet foreign minister ever to visit Israel, the first having been his immediate predecessor, Alexander Bessmertnykh, who visited in May.
Pankin’s primary mission here is a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, scheduled for Friday morning at the King David Hotel, where both are staying.
The Soviet diplomat is believed to have come here to reinforce Baker’s efforts to induce the Israelis and Palestinians to attend a Middle East peace conference under joint U.S.-Soviet auspices. The conference is tentatively scheduled to open Oct. 29 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Levy stressed to reporters before the Soviet diplomat arrived that full, normal relations with Moscow is a prerequisite for Israel’s attendance at a peace conference co-chaired by the Soviet Union. The Soviets have been promising to take the step as momentum toward a peace conference gained.
THE RUSSIAN DEFINITION OF ‘SOON’
Levy recalled that during their last meeting, at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Pankin “reiterated that the matter would be settled and quickly, very, very soon.
“And if the Russian ‘soon’ has the same meaning as the Israeli ‘soon,’ perhaps this is the best opportunity to make that announcement,” Levy said.
On Wednesday, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told Israeli Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, who is visiting Moscow, that he would announce the diplomatic rapprochement with Israel as soon as the conference date is set.
Peres and Gorbachev talked at the Kremlin for nearly two hours about world affairs.
Pankin, meanwhile, has scheduled a meeting here Friday morning with the group of local Palestinians, led by Faisal Husseini, that has been meeting regularly with Baker.
The Soviet diplomat spent an hour Thursday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, where he was given a guided tour by its Russian-speaking director, Dr. Yitzhak Arad.
He lingered, somber-faced over exhibits related to Holocaust experiences in the Soviet Union. Afterward he toured the city briefly, stopping at its various holy places.
The Soviet foreign minister will visit Egypt and Syria after leaving Israel.