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Soviets Link Ties With Israel to Start of Peace Talks

February 26, 1988|United Press International

MOSCOW — The Soviet Union will resume full diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time since 1967 the first day a Middle East peace conference convenes, a senior Soviet official said Thursday.

It was the most specific public commitment ever made by a Soviet official to re-establish diplomatic ties with Israel, a move that would eliminate a major hurdle to Soviet participation in any Middle East peace conference.

Israel for years has been seeking resumption of full diplomatic relations with Moscow, tied to permission for Soviet Jews to emigrate. Progress was made on that issue when the Soviets sent a consular delegation to Israel last summer.

Saudi Ties Also Planned

The official, speaking on condition he not be identified or directly quoted, said Moscow would also establish normal diplomatic ties at the same time with Saudi Arabia, another staunch U.S. ally.

Although Moscow broke off diplomatic relations with Israel during the Jewish state's victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, the official said an exchange of visits now under way is evidence of growing contacts between the two countries.

The official told a small luncheon gathering that he believes that Washington is beginning to understand it cannot achieve a Middle East peace as the lone mediator.

He said Secretary of State George P. Shultz indicated during his talks earlier this week in Moscow with Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze that he was not optimistic about success in his Middle East peace mission that began in Israel on Thursday. Soviet officials think Shultz wants to try the U.S. approach one last time.

The official said a Middle East peace conference should be convened as soon as possible under U.N. auspices with the participation of the five permanent members of the Security Council--the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Britain and France.

The role of the five Security Council members would be to pressure the Middle East nations into staying with the talks until a solution is found, he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, head of the right-wing Likud Bloc, opposes an international conference. His political rival, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who heads the Labor Alignment, favors one.

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