TEL AVIV (Apr. 6)
Israel’s army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, has begun a four-day official visit to Poland, the first ever by an incumbent Israel Defense Force chief to an Eastern European country.
He is expected to announce the opening of a military attache’s office at the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw, the first in an Eastern European capital.
Barak will pay a ceremonial visit to the site of the Auschwitz death camp in southeastern Poland. He will be joined there by a delegation of young IDF soldiers, children and grandchildren of former camp victims, and survivors who are flying out from Israel.
The chief of staff will meet his Polish counterpart, observe a Polish air force exercise and visit the naval base at Gdansk.
The visit to Poland by the Israeli general coincided with the arrival in southern Lebanon of the first contingent of 80 Polish soldiers, the first contingent Poland has contributed to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
The Polish troops will replace the Swedish detachment, which the Swedish government has withdrawn from the 5,800-member international peacekeeping force.
Barak flew to Warsaw after visiting both Germany and Switzerland. During a two-day stop in Switzerland, he discussed ongoing military cooperation and military purchase agreements between the two countries with the Swiss army chief of staff.
In Geneva, Barak and his Swiss counterpart, Heinz Haesler, who have known each other for 10 years, engaged in talks which Barak characterized as “most friendly.”
Barak told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency he had received assurances that the Swiss army will continue to buy arms from the Israeli arms industry and that cuts the Swiss Ministry of Defense will have to make shortly will not affect orders from Israel.
(JTA correspondent Tamar Levy in Geneva contributed to this report.)