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Soviet Foreign Minister Praises Israeli Restraint

February 12, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh praised Israel’s restraint in not being drawn into the Persian Gulf War, according to New York City Councilman Noah Dear, who had a two-hour meeting with Bessmertnykh in Moscow on Feb. 6.

Dear, who is in Israel for several days, said Sunday that Bessmertnykh asked him to “tell the people in Israel that we appreciate what they are going through, and that the restraint shown by the Israeli government will be beneficial in the future.”

Dear said that the Soviet foreign minister, who succeeded Eduard Shevardnadze, also noted that there is now a growing realization in the Soviet Union of the importance of territory for Israel’s security, and that it may be necessary for Israel to retain some of the territories administered since 1967.

Bessmertnykh also said that the Soviet Union wants full diplomatic relations with Israel, but wants to see diplomatic movement on the peace process on Israel’s part before this happens. The Soviet Union recently raised relations with Israel to consular level.

Dear became friendly with Bessmertnykh when the latter served in other senior Foreign Ministry posts, including his tour as ambassador to the United States. Dear said that Bessmertnykh “has warm relations with the Jews and takes an interest in their needs.”

Dear, who has been visiting the Soviet Union regularly for the past five years to help re-establish Jewish communal life, this time took a New York restaurateur with him to discuss setting up a kosher restaurant in Moscow. No deals were struck, but they did being samples of sliced pastrami to the minister of trade and explained the intricacies of kashrut to him.

It takes time, Dear said, to develop initial business contacts into full-fledged projects. As for a kosher restaurant, “we want it and the Soviets want it too. The problem is making it self-sufficient in supplies, so that no imports are needed. A restaurant like this would be important mainly for local Jews, and it is important that local religious leaders be involved.”

The economic problems in the Soviet Union are very difficult, Dear said, “and I am pushing as hard as I can to encourage American businessmen to go to the Soviet Union and help them turn it into a market economy. That’s how we can show good will. There is a danger that united Germany will have great economic influence in the Soviet Union, and Jews should be leery of this.”

In his contacts with various Soviet ministries, in addition to his talks with Bessmertnykh, Dear said that he saw no indications of the rising power of conservatives within the Soviet power structure.

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