Israel Strengthening Representation In China
BEIJING (AP) _ Israel plans to strengthen its representative office in China, an Israeli official said Wednesday. He described the move as a sign of an improving climate between the two nations, which have no formal ties.
The Israeli office, which is formally part of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities, opened in June 1990 as Israel’s first presence in China.
Two Israeli diplomats have been given posts at the office, its director said Wednesday. The two will not have diplomatic credentials while working at the office, but their arrival, expected in the next few months, underlines the office’s growing function as a de facto consulate.
″This is a step forward in improving our relations,″ office director Joseph Shalhevet said of the planned staff additions.
The Beijing government has refused to establish diplomatic relations with Israel until it returns land seized from Arab countries during the 1967 Middle East war.
China maintains strong ties with Arab countries and recognizes the Palestine Liberation Organization, which has an embassy in Beijing.
However, unofficial cultural, academic and business contacts between the two countries have grown in recent years. Bilateral trade reportedly includes arms sales.
An agreement reached three months ago gives the Israeli office in Beijing and the China International Travel Service in Tel Aviv the power to issue visas, he said. Shalhavet said his office issues visas in the name of the Israeli consulate in Hong Kong.
The opening of the liaison office has increased academic contacts, particularly in the areas of agriculture and medicine.
Last year, about 20 Chinese scientists and scholars traveled to Israel for conferences or short courses, while several Israelis came to China to teach or participate in professional meetings, Shalhevet said.
The office plans to bring Chinese and Israeli scientists together for a conference on efficient water use this April in Beijing. It also is working to set up a training and information center on advanced irrigation techniques.
The Persian Gulf crisis has led some Chinese to postpone departure for Israel to take part in exchange programs, Shalhevet said. But he added that Israel’s exchanges with China were continuing.
The two new Israeli representatives, both of whom have some background in Chinese studies, will ″explain Israel to China ... and learn about China,″ Shalhevet said.
One of them, Ze’ev Suffot, former ambassador to The Hague, is due to arrive next month, Shalhevet said. He said the other diplomat was relatively new to the foreign service and would arrive later.