WASHINGTON (Oct. 1)
A State Department spokesman affirmed today America’s continued interest in keeping open the channels of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union to Israel, said the U.S. has received no official proposals that it assume part of the refugee burden and disclosed that the U.S. has been in touch with a number of European governments and with Israel on the situation resulting from Austria’s announced decision to close down the Schoenau transit camp.
Ambassador Robert McCloskey, the State Department’s acting chief spokesman, told reporters at today’s news briefing that the U.S. did not agree with the Austrian decision to close the Schoenau center. He added, however, that there were “painful decisions” that governments find themselves facing and averred that “a similar situation would be painful for the U.S.” He said that “while we do not agree with the Austrian decision, we certainly do understand and appreciate the pain governments experience.”
Asked what specifically was the U.S. concern in this situation, McCloskey repeated elements of Saturday’s State Department statement which condemned and deplored terrorism. He added that the U.S. also regretted “the unfortunate type of action which has succeeded in putting a hurdle in the way of persons desiring to emigrate, a principle we see as a fundamental right.”
McCloskey said that Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union has been “a matter of specific interest to the U.S.” and disclosed that the U.S. contributed about $1 million for the “refurbishment” of Schoenau Castle. He said U.S. disagreement with the decision to close Schoenau was in full recognition that this is within the jurisdiction of the Austrian government and that “the U.S. government cannot fix places to assist in the immigration process” which involved other countries.
He said he did not know whether Rumania, a country mentioned as a possible alternative channel for Soviet Jewish emigrants, was among the European countries with which the U.S. was consulting. He said that to his knowledge there was no consultation with the Soviet Union regarding a suggestion by Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky that the U.S. share the refugee burden by opening an air lift for the emigres or a sea lift from a Russian port. He said no official proposals had been received in that regard.
Asked if the U.S. had specifically urged the Austrian government to revoke its decision to close Schoenau Castle, as reported today on the Austrian radio, McCloskey replied, “no comment.”