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Officials Remain Non-committal on Proposal for New System of Transit Through Austria Cancelling Scho

October 5, 1973
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli officials remained non-committal today on a reported proposal by the Austrian Minister of Interior, Otto Roesch, for a new system of immigrant transit through Austria that would make the Schoenau transit center unnecessary. Roesch, in an interview published in Maariv, said he had established a committee of senior officials to work out a system whereby Jews leaving the Soviet Union would be transported from the Austrian-Czech border directly to an airport to board planes leaving for Israel.

Roesch pledged that the Schoenau facility would not be shut down until the alternative plan goes into effect. The Austrian government has refused to revoke its decision to close Schoenau despite heavy international pressure. But indications here are that a compromise could be reached to end the crisis between Israel and Austria precipitated by Chancellor Bruno Kreisky’s decision to close Schoenau.

Israeli officials did not say that Roesch’s alternative plan was acceptable but they did not reject it out of hand. They said there would be no reaction here until the plan is officially presented to the Israeli Ambassador in Vienna. But Israeli officials also made it clear that they were not presently considering any alternatives to Austria as a channel for Jewish emigres leaving the Soviet Union. They ruled out, in effect, suggestions that Holland or Sweden might assume the Austrian role.

Officials here also consider dead a proposal by Kreisky that the Schoena facility be placed under the aegis of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They said that UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim’s statement that Schoenau “did not fall within the mandate of the High Commissioner” killed the Austrian initiative.

Observers here who believe that a compromise with Austria is possible pointed out that the government’s official communique yesterday did not make a specific demand that Schoenau be kept open. Israel demanded officially that there continue to be “a free and unlimited passage (for the migrants) as has been the case hitherto” in Austria.

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