Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze expressed hope after a 90-minute meeting here last night that their countries soon will be able to resume the diplomatic relations that were broken 23 years ago following the 1967 Middle East war.

Despite widespread expectations that their meeting would be capped by announcement of renewed ties, the two appeared together to say that some problems still must be resolved before lingering Cold War antagonisms can be set aside.

Shamir said he had asked the Soviets "to establish as soon as possible normal relations." But when Shevardnadze was asked to explain Moscow's reticence, he said only: "We are moving toward {relations}. A process is evolving in normal fashion."

Nevertheless, their friendly banter was in stark contrast to the confrontational tone that formerly characterized discourse between the two countries. Moscow broke relations to show solidarity with Arab countries that Israel defeated in the 1967 war, and for years the Soviet Union allowed only a few Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel.

That has changed dramatically under Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who has liberalized emigration laws to the point that the number of Soviet Jews who have resettled in Israel is expected to top 1 million in four years.

The two leaders' remarks hinted strongly that the delay in resuming relations stems from the Soviet Union's reluctance to antagonize its longtime Arab allies at a time when the Jewish state has refused to participate in an international conference on Israeli-occupied Arab territories. Moscow is a strong advocate of holding such a conference when the Persian Gulf crisis ends.

Shevardnardze, who left Washington last night, had planned to balance his meeting with Shamir by conferring in Ankara, Turkey, today with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat. But he said last night that unexpected problems had forced cancellation of the Ankara meeting and that he would see Arafat later, probably in Moscow.

Shamir said he raised the idea of establishing direct flights from the Soviet Union to Israel to speed the flow of emigrants. "The Soviet minister told us there are some problems that we have to settle, and he hopes they will be settled in the immediate future," Shamir said.

Earlier yesterday, Shamir said he still believes his 1989 proposal for a dialogue with Palestinians is "a good, viable plan" that offers the best hope of restarting the deadlocked Middle East peace process.

Shamir told a meeting at the American Enterprise Insitute (AEI): "Peace plans are neither fashions nor automobiles. We cannot -- and we must not -- produce a new, improved model every year. We believe that our four-point plan of May 1989, which was endorsed by the {Bush} administration at the time, is a good, viable plan."

However, Shamir failed to mention that last June he turned down a diplomatic arrangement Secretary of State James A. Baker III had spent months working out for moving ahead with the Israeli plan. His rejection of Baker's efforts stirred angry charges within the administration that Shamir had acted in bad faith to stall pressure for concessions to the 1.7 million Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Shamir plan, outlined during a 1989 White House visit, proposed elections in the territories of "interlocutors" who would represent the Palestinians there in negotiations with Israel for limited self-government. That period of autonomy would be followed by further negotiations to determine the final status of the territories.

Baker subsequently suggested that talks preceding the proposed elections include at least one Arab activist deported from the territories and a representative of Arab East Jerusalem. But Shamir rejected that idea.