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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Israel to resume Austria ties
Israeli flag
The Israeli flag is set to fly in Vienna once more
Israel is returning an ambassador to Vienna for the first time since it broke ties with Austria when a far-right party came to power.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom announced the decision after talks in Jerusalem with his Austrian counterpart, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

"After three and a half years, we have decided to restore full diplomatic relations with Austria," he told reporters.

Israel withdrew its ambassador in 2000 after Joerg Haider's right-wing Freedom Party joined the new coalition government.

The party was known for its anti-Semitic sentiments and derogatory attitude towards foreigners.

"Israel cannot remain silent in the face of the rise of extremist right-wing parties, in particular in those countries which played a role in the events which brought about the eradication of a third of the Jewish people in the Holocaust," said a foreign ministry statement at the time.

However, relations between the two countries have warmed following Austria's offer of compensation for Holocaust survivors and their descendants, as well as the Freedom Party's slide in popular support at last year's elections.

The two foreign ministers visited Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, before an hour-long meeting at the foreign ministry.

Sitting beside Mrs Ferrero-Waldner afterwards, Mr Shalom said: "Israel will now appoint an ambassador to Vienna and will today remove all the restrictions that we imposed on its relations" with Austria.

Mrs Ferrero-Waldner said: "Austria welcomes the restoration of diplomatic relations in Vienna to ambassadorial level."


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