Israel’s New Envoy in Moscow Says He’s Pleasantly Surprised

After one week on the job, Israel’s new ambassador in Moscow, Haim Bar-Lev, says he is pleasantly surprised by what he has seen so far of the Russian capital.

“It’s very strange to someone like me, who has just fallen into this place,” Bar-Lev, who arrived here Nov. 12, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“I’d been told that there’s no food here, no gas, no cars, lines for everything, dark streets, etc. I had a completely wrong image,” he said.

But Bar-Lev is not ready to describe the Russian capital as a city of light. “I haven’t been to the Bolshoi (Theater) yet. Ask me then,” he said.

Bar-Lev said that the “main political issue” between Israel and Russia is “to convince the Russians to convince the Arabs that without a willingness to compromise there will be no solution” to the Middle East conflict.

He added that, as a co-sponsor of the peace process, Russia has been “very reasonable and helpful.”

Apart from the peace process, he said he has two other priorities in Moscow: to represent the State of Israel and to reach out to the Jews of the former Soviet Union.

Israel’s Moscow ambassador represents Israel in 10 of the 15 republics of the old Soviet Union. There are now two resident ambassadors serving the five Central Asian republics.

Bar-Lev, who expects to serve at least two years here, is set to present his credentials to Russian President Boris Yeltsin before the end of November.

He replaces Arye Levin, who in October 1991 became Israel’s first ambassador to Moscow since the former Soviet Union broke off relations in 1967.

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