Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and his Russian counterpart, Andrei Kozyrev, signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday, outlining their goal of achieving closer ties between the two countries.
It was symbolic of how much has changed in the world that the United Nations, for nearly two decades the spot of fierce anti-Israel rhetoric sponsored by the Soviet Union, became the site of diplomatic progress with its successor state of Russia.
Meetings with three other republics of the former Soviet Union were characterized as “fine and helpful” by Peres.
“There’s an exceptional atmosphere to Israel from all countries,” said Peres. “There’s a feeling that Israel took a serious step toward peace, and if there are problems, they are created more by the Arab situation than by the Israeli situation.”
On Monday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlemko told Peres that his country expects to send its first ambassador to Israel next month.
Last May, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk said that he expected an ambassador to be in place within two months, but he cautioned that first a suitable candidate had to be found.
In his meeting with Peres, Zlemko said his country’s minister of the environment had been selected to serve as ambassador, a move, he said, that reflected the importance Ukraine attaches to its relations with Israel.
Along those lines, work will begin soon on drafting joint economic, cultural, scientific and commercial agreements between the two countries.
The Ukrainian president is scheduled to visit Israel in late November or early December.
On Tuesday, the Belarus foreign minister, Pyotr Kravhanka, expressed a similar desire for joint culture activities. He proposed publication of a trilingual edition of the poetry of Chaim Nachman Bialik.
Peres also met with the president of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrossian.
Peres took the opportunity of his meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister Barbara MacDougall on Tuesday to express Israel’s concern over the proposed Canadian sale of frigates to Saudi Arabia.
MacDougall responded that the decision to go ahead with the sale has not yet been finalized and that no contract has been signed. The meeting was one of dozens Peres is holding during the opening session of this 47th U.N. General Assembly.
In another sign of a warming diplomatic climate toward Israel, Peres said he met with the president of Cyprus and discussed the exchange of ambassadors.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.