The Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967 at the time of the Six-Day War. A story in yesterday's editions gave an incorrect date.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko held what Shamir called "very useful" talks in New York last night, the first official talks between the two countries in six years.
Shamir said today, however, that despite the meeting, held at Israel's request, he did not expect a resumption of relations between the two countries in the near future.
"We have discussed the actual situation, but I cannot say we can expect a change in the near future in this situation," Shamir said in an interview with Israeli radio.
"We haven't made any arrangements. It was an exchange of views and positions and without any practical conclusions," he said.
Nevertheless, the meeting reflected a significant shift from the policy during Moshe Dayan's tenure as foreign minister, which discouraged any initiative by Israeli diplomats to meet with Soviet officials, while permitting contact initiated by the Soviets.
Shamir said that in the 90-minute meeting, he and Gromyko discussed Middle East peace prospects, U.S.-Israeli relations, emigration of Soviet Jews and imprisonment of Soviet Jewish dissidents.
On the Arab-Israeli conflict, Shamir said, "there is a gap between us and them in our assessment, in our positions, but it was interesting for me to listen to their positions and arguments, and I think it was important for me to explain our views about the peace process, about prospects for peace."
Gromyko told Shamir that Israel's present policies toward its neighbors and the Palestinians are shortsighted, Tass, the Soviet press agency, said, according to Reuter.
Tass said Gromyko told Shamir that Israel was undermining its own position by refusing to hand back Arab land occupied in 1967 or to allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. He said Moscow believed that an international conference could lead to agreements guaranteeing "the independent and secure existence of all states in the region, Israel included."
When asked why he decided to initiate the meeting at this time, Shamir replied, "Now it's an opportunity in the United Nations, when every minister of a country meets his colleagues from other countries. It is the best occasion to meet here a minister of the Soviet Union with whom we have so many problems to discuss."
The meeting at the Soviet U.N. mission was also attended on the Israeli side by the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Yehuda Blum; Yosi Ben-Aharon, Shamir's chief-of-staff, and Avi Pazner, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.
In January 1953, the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with Israel, ostensibly because of an attack on the Soviet Embassy in Tel Aviv, and contact between the two countries since then has been infrequent.
In December 1973, shortly after the October war, Abba Eban, then foreign minister, met with Gromyko in Geneva and the two agreed that foreign ministers of the two countries should keep open at least nominal lines of communications by meeting at international conferences.
In 1975, the late Israeli foreign minister Yigael Allon held talks with Gromyko, the last between the two nations until last night. Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations, Chaim Herzog, writing today in the daily Maariv, said, "As one who organized the meeting and participated in it, I can testify to its value. At the end of the talk, Gromyko admitted that as a result of Yigael Allon's exposition, he saw some of the issues in a different light and understood some of them better than he had before."
Herzog said that during Dayan's first visit to the United Nations as foreign minister, Soviet officials said Gromyko was interested in a meeting but was not prepared to be on record as initiating it. "The government of Israel's reaction was a negative one," Herzog said, and the meeting never took place.
Herzog said that the Soviet Union cannot be ignored by Israel, if for no other reason than because it "holds a large number of Jewish hostages."
Moshe Arens, chairman of parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, said he does not believe Soviet-Israeli discussions should affect strategic cooperation between the United States and Israel.
Eban said the government for five years had been "negligent" in refusing to initiate talks. He said that even if nothing substantive comes of them, they will help Israel develop its attitudes in world politics.