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Peres Welcomes Gorbachev Remarks; Shamir Wants to Study the Text

June 2, 1988
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Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres had markedly different reactions Wednesday to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s statement in Moscow that the Soviet Union would consider restoring diplomatic relations with Israel at the start of an international conference for Middle East peace.

Gorbachev spoke in response to questions at the first news conference ever held by a Soviet leader in Moscow. Peres, who will head the Labor Party list in the Knesset elections next November, found Gorbachev’s remarks encouraging.

He said he would “welcome” a new and more balanced Soviet position on the Middle East conflict and would be pleased if Gorbachev’s words signaled an era of cooperation, instead of confrontation, between the superpowers in this region.

Shamir, who was formally elected Wednesday by the Herut Party Central Committee to head its election list as candidate for prime minister, reacted cautiously. He said he wanted to scrutinize the text of Gorbachev’s remarks and to discuss these developments with U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz when he arrives here this weekend.

Shultz will resume his diplomatic efforts in the area next week with visits to Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Political observers here interpreted Gorbachev’s remarks as a measure of encouragement to Shultz to continue pressing his peace plan. The different reactions of the two Israeli leaders reflected their opposing hopes and expectations from the Moscow summit conference between Gorbachev and President Reagan, which has just ended.

Labor hoped for a narrowing of the differences between the superpowers over an international conference. Likud, which adamantly opposes the conference scenario, hoped for an opposite outcome.

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