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Israel’s Moscow Embassy Reopens After 24 Years

Soviet Jews awaiting visas were among the some 100 guests and staff present last Thursday when the Israeli flag was once more hoisted above the building which had been and is now once again Israel’s Embassy in Moscow.

With the building restored to its former prestige, Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” was sung and the champaign flowed.

Leading the festivities was Arye Levin, who held ambassador’s rank but could function only on the consular level until Moscow resumed full diplomatic relations with Israel on Oct. 18.

“It’s a great day” in Soviet-Israeli relations, said Levin, who predicted “more great days are ahead of us.”

Levin placed a new bronze plaque, reading “Embassy of Israel” in Hebrew and Cyrillic letters, at the building’s entrance. The plaque was being “returned to its proper place,” he said.

Levin told reporters later that he thought the Soviet Union could play a constructive role at the Middle East peace conference opening Wednesday in Madrid under joint U.S.-Soviet auspices.

He suggested that the Soviets might use their influence to moderate the positions of Syria and other Arab countries.

The embassy was closed in June 1967, after the Soviet Union severed all ties with Israel on the final day of the Six-Day War. It remained vacant for more than 20 years while Israeli interests in the Soviet Union were represented by the Dutch Embassy.

In 1988, Israel and the Soviet Union exchanged interest sections after low-level Soviet diplomats had opened an office in Tel Aviv, ostensibly to check Soviet properties in Jerusalem.

Months later, a small Israeli mission set up shop at the old embassy building in Moscow. But it was not elevated to embassy status until Soviet Foreign Minister Boris Pankin came to Jerusalem and signed the agreement re-establishing normal relations between his country and Israel.

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