WASHINGTON (Nov. 2)
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance said today that the United States has “interceded” with the Soviet Union on behalf of Soviet dissidents facing trial. At the same time, he defended the Soviet-American Middle East statement.
In a news conference almost entirely devoted to Soviet-American relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Vance skirted a question whether the U.S. intercession would endanger the superpowers’ bilateral relations and would not disclose Soviet reaction to Washington’s protest. He said the U.S. regarded treatment of the dissidents “with great seriousness.”
Vance was commenting on a report that President Carter and Vance have urged the Soviet leaders not to conduct pending trials of Anatoly Shcharansky, Alexander Ginzburg and Uri Orlov. The Shcharansky case has aroused Jewish groups since he faces treason charges because of his outspoken support of Jewish emigration from the USSR. Soviet media have linked Shcharansky to the Central Intelligence Agency, but Carter has publicly denied such connections.
Ginzburg is accused of anti-Soviet agitation and Orlov for heading a group monitoring Soviet compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki agreement. As late as yesterday, government officials said Vance had discussed the matter of pending trials of dissidents with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin.
SAYS U.S.-USSR STATEMENT IS CONSTRUCTIVE
Responding to the attacks on the Soviet-American agreement by Republican Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker of Tennessee, who in an address before the World Jewish Congress yesterday accused the Carter Administration of playing “Russian Roulette,” Vance said that he “very deeply” believes that the joint statement of Oct. I is “a constructive step in moving toward a Geneva conference” on the Middle East.
Vance went out of his way to re-emphasize the Carter Administration’s support of Israel. Going over the ramifications of his efforts for the Geneva conference, Vance said “In all of this I want to emphasize that we are committed to the security of Israel and there never has been a moment of doubt upon this. I have seen comment in the press which has raised questions about this and I therefore want to take this opportunity to lay this question to rest once and for all. There is no question at all that we are committed fully to the security of Israel.” Vance emphasized “fully.”
Vance said he is continuing to press for a Geneva conference before the end of the year but he did not plan to visit the Middle East. He said the “key questions which remain for resolution” for Geneva is the composition of the Palestinian element of the United Arab delegation and the final form of the working groups to carry out the actual negotiations after the opening session. “We have not completed our discussions with the parties on these two issues,” he said.