TEL AVIV (Oct. 20)
Israel received its first diplomatic payoff for agreeing to attend a Middle East peace conference next week in Madrid when the Soviet Union restored full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state on Friday.
The move, announced by visiting Soviet Foreign Minister Boris Pankin, ended nearly a quarter century of abnormal relations between the two countries, a period that began when Moscow severed ties at the end of the 1967 Six-Day War.
An agreement on the immediate renewal of relations was signed at a brief ceremony at the Israeli Foreign Ministry by Pankin and his Israeli counterpart, David Levy.
A two-hour delay in the signing ceremony was said to have been due to Pankin’s wish to confer beforehand with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, to make sure that Israel had agreed to attend the Middle East peace conference, announced by Baker and Pankin an hour later.
Observers said the need for Pankin to obtain the American go-ahead indicated the degree to which the Soviet Union was now playing second fiddle to the U.S. in the peace negotiations.
At a Soviet-Israeli news conference after the signing ceremony, Pankin spoke of a more evenhanded Soviet approach to the Middle East.
“In the past, the Soviet Union tended to sort of side with the Palestinians and the Arab states, while the U.S. sided with Israel, and this did not bring any tangible fruit,” he said.
“The new approach now is certainly not to have any protegees and support their positions no matter what they say and no matter how legitimate they may be,” he said.
HAILED AS A ‘MAJOR MILESTONE’
Levy hailed the restoration of ties after what he termed the Soviet Union’s “historic mistake” in breaking off relations.
“Clearly this brings us to a more open dialogue, so that they hear Israeli positions directly, face to face,” he said.
Israel’s current consul general in Moscow, Arye Levin, who attended the signature ceremony, will be named Israel’s new ambassador to the Soviet Union.
Levin said the two countries had already established a joint committee on economic cooperation that would soon begin meeting alternately in Moscow and in Jerusalem.
The Soviet Union broke relations with Israel on June 11, 1967, after days of angry debate in the U.N. Security Council over the Six-Day War.
Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, Israeli interests in the Soviet Union were represented by the Dutch Embassy in Moscow, and Soviet interests in Israel were represented by the Finnish Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Consular relations were re-established in the summer of 1987, when the Soviets sent a consular representative to Tel Aviv and agreed to allow an Israeli team to come to Moscow.
In New York, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations hailed the move as “a major milestone in a series of historic changes that have taken place within the Soviet Union in recent months.”
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry also welcomed the restoration of relations, which it called the “logical culmination of a process begun some time ago.”
Shoshana Cardin, the group’s chairman, expressed hope that the move would lead to the resolution of cases involving Soviet Jews who have long been denied permission to emigrate either because of alleged access to “state secrets” or because of alleged financial obligation to so-called “poor relatives.”