Soviets Join U.S. on U.N. Zionism Issue : Policy: Moscow reverses longstanding position, opposes resolution condemning Israel as a rascist state.


The Soviet Union, reversing what had long been a key foreign policy position, declared Tuesday that Zionism should not be equated with racism and called on the United Nations to cast aside a 1975 resolution condemning Israel as a racist state.

Foreign Minister Boris D. Pankin told the U.N. General Assembly that its resolution declaring Zionism to be a form of racism was “obnoxious,” “a legacy of the Ice Age” and an obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

The Soviet statement followed a call by President Bush on Monday for the repeal of the resolution, and it appeared to reflect the growing cooperation of Moscow and Washington in efforts to convene a Middle East peace conference next month.


Pankin also said the Soviet Union is in the “process of restoring normal (diplomatic) relations with Israel” after a break of 24 years.

Soviet diplomats in Moscow said the renewal of relations would come as soon as plans for the peace conference are accepted.

“We hope it will be not more than a few weeks at most,” a Soviet official said.

Although Pankin devoted only one sentence in his General Assembly speech to denouncing the resolution equating Zionism with racism, it was striking evidence of the profound changes under way in Soviet foreign policy.

Only a year ago, when a similar campaign was waged to overturn the resolution, a Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman described it as “a diversion” from resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Coming after Moscow’s agreements this month to halt arms shipments to Afghanistan and to withdraw most of its troops from Cuba, the shift underscored the Soviet desire to end the ideological confrontation of the Cold War in international relations.

“All nations, irrespective of their ideological or political preferences, should maintain normal and proper relations,” Pankin said.


The pending resumption of relations with Israel, he continued, would pay off the Soviet Union’s “last diplomatic debts inherited from the Cold War.” Moscow had earlier extended full diplomatic recognition to South Korea and is close to doing so with South Africa.

Pankin, who received a mandate to accelerate the reforms in Soviet foreign policy when appointed this month, said repeal of the Zionism-racism resolution is a necessary step to cleanse the world organization of outmoded ideology.

“The philosophy of new international solidarity, which is finding its way into practice, signifies a de-ideologization of the United Nations,” Pankin said. “In renewing our organization, we should once and for all leave behind the legacy of the Ice Age, like the obnoxious resolution equating Zionism to racism.”

The Soviet Union stopped short of calling for full repeal of the 1975 resolution, warning that such a move could divert energy from the peace conference. It proposed instead that the General Assembly vote again on the original resolution “to enable members of the world community to vote against it.”

“We believe it is not right to equate Zionism with racism,” Yuri Fedotov, a senior Foreign Ministry official, told the official Soviet news agency Tass in Moscow. “In our opinion, it would be preferable to adopt a decision which, without formally annulling the 1975 resolution, would actually make it invalid.

“This would ease tension about the matter and help consolidate positive tendencies in settling the Arab-Israeli conflict.”


Fedotov said that the new vote could be taken on the basis of consensus so that it would unanimously reflect world opinion that Zionism is not racism. The original resolution was passed by a vote of 72 to 35, with 32 abstentions.

Bush had called Monday for the unconditional repeal of the 1975 resolution.

“To equate Zionism with the intolerable sin of racism is to twist history and forget the terrible plight of Jews in World War II and indeed throughout history,” Bush said. “To equate Zionism with racism is to reject Israel itself, a member of good standing of the United Nations.”

U.S. officials, while saying that many of the former Communist countries and Third World nations that had supported the original resolution are prepared to reverse their votes, acknowledged that repeal could prove difficult.

The 1975 resolution infuriated Israelis and other Jews, who regard Zionism as the historical drive for the establishment of a Jewish homeland and regard Israel as the culmination of that movement. Moscow’s support for the resolution continued despite the broader changes in Soviet foreign policy.

Pankin, who met privately with Bush before his address, echoed most of the main points in the President’s speech Monday. Like Bush, Pankin called for the United Nations to shed its history as a Cold War debating society and emerge as the primary organ of world order.

Kempster reported from the United Nations in New York, and Parks from Moscow.