Israel and the Soviet Union have agreed to set up regular political contacts, Israeli officials said Tuesday, describing it as a possible step toward renewing diplomatic relations severed 20 years ago.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said he probably will meet in New York next month with his Soviet counterpart, Eduard A. Shevardnadze, when the two leaders are scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly.
However, there was no Soviet confirmation of the Israeli announcement on political contacts, and Soviet officials on Tuesday did not refer to it at their regular briefing for foreign reporters.
Peres' statement came as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir continued his visit to Romania, holding talks with Constantin Dascalescu, the premier of the Eastern European country.
Shamir's spokesman, Avi Pazner, told reporters in Bucharest that the Romanian leader has proposed that Israeli businessmen meet Romanian officials soon to promote joint economic ventures in countries other than Romania, the only Warsaw Pact state that did not follow Moscow's lead in severing ties with Israel during the 1967 Middle East War.
Back in Jerusalem, Peres' chief political aide, Nimrod Novick, said the Soviet-Israeli decision to open a political exchange followed his meeting with Vladimir Tarasov, a Kremlin expert on the Middle East. The two officials talked for 10 hours over the weekend in Bonn.
Novick said in an Israel radio interview that the Soviets "told us they plan to open a direct channel of communication between our two countries."
"This is the application of an intention they have expressed previously to open a political dialogue with us," he said.
Asked whether the Soviet initiative indicated a willingness to renew ties, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said: "We do not know, but we are looking at the situation with guarded optimism."
Israeli hopes were reinforced last month by the arrival of a Soviet consular delegation, the first official Soviet group to visit in 20 years.