Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander A. Bessmertnykh will become the highest-ranking Soviet official to visit Israel in 24 years when he arrives Friday for talks about a Middle East peace conference and, possibly, renewing diplomatic relations broken in 1967.
"We're assuming it signifies a step toward the resumption of diplomatic ties, but I will not comment beyond this," an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Moscow has agreed to co-sponsor a peace conference with the United States, although Israel has made its acceptance of the formula contingent upon a renewal of diplomatic relations. Bessmertnykh will stop in Israel as part of a four-nation tour that will also take him to Syria, Egypt and Jordan. It is his first tour of the region since being appointed last year as the Soviet Union's top diplomat.