Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze agreed Wednesday to open a new dialogue between their two nations on the Persian Gulf crisis and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Despite the emerging consensus on the Middle East peace process, however, Shevardnadze rebuffed Shamir’s request for an immediate resumption of full diplomatic relations.
With Shamir at his side, Shevardnadze said the two countries are “moving toward” a resumption of relations, which were broken at the time of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. But he said they are not there yet.
The meeting at the plush Madison Hotel, about seven blocks from the White House, was the most friendly between high-level officials of Israel and the Soviet Union in more than two decades. Shamir and Shevardnadze conferred two years ago at the United Nations, but never before had there been a joint Israel-Soviet news conference at such a high level.
Apparently ignoring his often-stated objection to linking the Persian Gulf crisis with Israel’s dispute with its Arab neighbors, Shamir said Israel and the Soviet Union agreed to “work together to bring peaceful solutions to the conflicts of the Middle East, including our conflict--the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
“We appreciate the sincere desire of the Soviet foreign minister to bring the peaceful solution of these conflicts,” Shamir said.
For his part, Shevardnadze softened Moscow’s call for an international peace conference to tackle all the conflicts in the region. Israel has repeatedly rejected such a plan.
“Let us not talk about the conference now,” Shevardnadze said. “I would say that we have discussed dialogue on that score. There is no difference between us. A very serious dialogue is necessary.”
He said it is not important whether the dialogue is just between the two nations, includes some other nations or is expanded into a full-blown peace conference.
In his appearance with Shevardnadze, Shamir did not mention the conference proposal. But earlier in the day, he said in a speech: “Israel will not participate in such a conference, and Israel will not accept imposed solutions.”
Although diplomats seldom discuss in public requests that have been rebuffed, Shamir readily acknowledged that he asked the Soviet Union to resume diplomatic relations. The two countries took a partial step last October when they agreed to exchange consular officials.
“We have proposed to the foreign minister of the Soviet Union to establish with us as soon as possible normal relations and settle the various bilateral questions,” Shamir said.
But Shevardnadze said it is too soon to do that although Moscow has not set any preconditions.
“Of course, we want normal civilized relations with all countries,” he said. “You can derive your conclusion from that. . . . We are moving toward that. The process is evolving in a normal fashion.”
For Israel, the question of diplomatic relations is an important one because of periodic efforts by Arab nations to question Israel’s legitimacy. The government is especially eager to resume national ties that were ruptured in response to the 1967 war.