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Shevardnadze to meet Arafat and Arens in Cairo, Reports Say

February 18, 1989

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze plans to meet PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens during his visit to Cairo this week, Israel radio and television reported Saturday.

Shevardnadze, who unveiled a Soviet plan for peace in the Middle East on Saturday, invited Arens to a Wednesday meeting and will later meet Arafat, the television reported.

A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry refused comment on the reports.

But a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the meeting with Arens and said the foreign minister will leave Israel for Cairo on Monday.

He could not confirm the meeting with Arafat.

The head of Israel’s consular delegation in Moscow, Arieh Levin, was contacted by the Soviet Foreign Ministry as Shevardnadze began planning his visit to the Middle East, the televison reported.

Israeli officials quickly accepted the invitation.

The planned meeting will be the second between Arens and Shevardnadze. The two met in Paris last month during a conference on chemical weapons.

Shevardnadze’s 10-day Middle East tour began Friday in Damascus and includes stops in Iran, Iraq and Jordan in addition to Egypt and Syria.

The Soviet Union severed diplomatic relations with Israel in the wake of the 1967 Middle East conflict.

The two nations began to improve relations two years ago and exchanged low- level consular delegations in July 1987.

In Damascus on Saturday, Shevardnadze announced details of a Middle East peace plan, saying his country will push the U.N. Security Council to convene an international Middle East peace conference.

He said such a meeting should involve all the parties concerned, including the PLO.

He outlined a three-stage plan that he said should be carried out within nine months.

First, the foreign ministers of the Security Council should hold a special session to discuss the issue. Second, the five permanent members of the council - the United States, the Soviet Union, China, France and Britain - should ″assume the function of a preparatory body for the conference.″

Third, the United Nations as a whole be used to help the parties involved work out their differences.

Israel has rejected the idea of an international conference, but Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has said that a U.S.-Soviet conference or one sponsored by the United Nations could serve to bring Israel and the Arab nations together.

Israel has made the restoration of Soviet-Israeli relations a condition for a Soviet role in peace talks.

″The Soviets understand that if they want to be a serious part of the conflict they need contacts in Israel,″ the official said.

Tuesday, the Director General of the Prime Minister’s office, Yosef Ben Aharon, urged Shevardnadze to visit Israel during his tour of the Middle East.

″If the Soviet Union really wants to have a fresh look at the Middle East... there is nothing like a first-hand look and direct talks with our leaders,″ Ben Aharon told the Jerusalem Post daily newspaper.

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