Israeli, Pakistani Presidents Meet

October 31, 1998 - 0:0
BAIT-UL-MOQADDAS The presidents of Israel and Pakistan held an unprecedented meeting on the sidelines of celebrations in Ankara for the 75th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, Israeli newspapers said Friday. President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar of Pakistan approached Israel's Ezer Weizman during a reception Thursday and shook his hand saying, I have heard much about you as a man of peace, the Yediot Aharonot reported.

The two then held a conversation about the troubled peace process with the Palestinians and Tarar expressed hope that one day we will meet again, the newspaper said. Yediot Aharonot quoted an unnamed Israeli official as hailing the Pakistani president's overture. The president of Pakistan has never before spoken in public with an Israeli president and this is very significant, the official said.

Pakistan, an Islamic state, has no diplomatic relations with Israel but the two countries are reported to have held secret contacts on a number of issues. Since a hardline nationalist government came to power in Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June 1996, there has been a virtual freeze on the development of relations with Arab and other Muslim states.