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Israeli Delegation Leaves Amsterdam on History-making Trip to Moscow

July 29, 1988
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A five-member Israeli consular delegation left here Thursday for Moscow, to become the first Israeli officials to be stationed in the USSR since the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967.

The group, headed by Meron Gordon, a Soviet emigre, picked up their Soviet entry visas at the Dutch Foreign Ministry Wednesday, after arriving at The Hague on Tuesday.

The consular delegation had announced that it would begin its stay in the Soviet Union by meeting Soviet Jews at a Moscow synagogue Friday night.

At the Foreign Ministry, the Israelis had what were described as technical talks with Dutch officials. The Netherlands has been looking after Israeli interests in the Soviet Union for the past 21 years.

A ministry spokesman refused to say whether the issue of Soviet Jewish immigrants was discussed.

The Israeli Cabinet had decided on June 19 that Jews leaving the Soviet Union on the strength of Israeli visas must fly directly to Israel via Bucharest, Romania, where they will pick up their visas at the Israeli Embassy.

But Israeli visas are still being issued at the Dutch Embassy in Moscow. Most Jewish emigres travel via Vienna, where the great majority — 90 percent in recent months — opt to settle in countries other than Israel, mainly the United States.

Implementation of the new Israeli visa policy will require the cooperation of the Romanian and Soviet authorities and the Dutch Embassy in Moscow.

Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers and Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek, who visited Israel a week ago, made it clear to their hosts that Holland supports freedom of choice for Soviet Jewish immigrants with respect to their destination.

There has been some speculation that the Israeli team going to Moscow will eventually issue visas, a routine consular function. The Soviet authorities ruled that out, and it is not certain whether the visas issued the Israelis will be renewed when they expire.

But Israel has several times renewed the visas of a Soviet consular delegation that has been in Israel since June 1987. The Israeli team going to Moscow is in reciprocation.

In Moscow, a Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the visit of the Israeli delegation is unrelated to the question of diplomatic links between the two countries, according to published reports there.

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