WASHINGTON (Jan. 16)
President Reagan today urged the Soviet Union to stop sending “sophisticated weapons” to the Middle East and to live up to its human rights obligations under the Helsinki Accords. He also suggested that the USSR could work with the U.S. in easing regional tensions such as those in the Middle East.
Reagan’s remarks were made in a nationally televised speech in which he urged the Soviet Union to resume the dialogue on arms control. The speech, which was sent by satellite to Europe, came two days before Secretary of State George Shultz is scheduled to meet Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Stockholm.
While noting that arms control is “the most visible area of Soviet-U.S. dialogue,” Reagan added, “A durable peace requires both of us to defuse tensions and regional conflicts.
“Take the Middle East for example,” the President continued. “Everyone’s interests would be served by stability in the region and our efforts are directed toward that goal. The Soviets could help reduce tensions there instead of introducing sophisticated weapons into the area. This would certainly help us to deal more positively with other aspects of our relationship.”
SAYS USSR, SURROGATES EXPLOIT LOCAL CONFLICTS
Earlier in his address, Reagan accused the Soviets and their surrogates of having “exploited” local conflicts. “Fueling regional conflicts and exporting violence only exacerbates local tensions, increases suffering and makes solutions to real social and economic problems more difficult,” the President said. “Further, such activity carries with it the risk of larger confrontations.”
The President said it would be better for the U.S. and USSR to “work together” to help find peaceful solutions to regional problems. But he said that “the gap in American and Soviet perceptions and policy is so great that our immediate objective-must be more modest. As a first step, our governments should jointly examine concrete actions we both can take to reduce the risk of U.S.-Soviet confrontation is these areas. And if we succeed, we should be able to move beyond this immediate objective.”
Later, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said he could not be specific but noted that the Soviets “can be helpful in the Middle East.” He said there can be a dialogue between the U.S. and the Soviet Union on the Middle East and the Soviets “could use their influence,” an apparent reference to Syria.
EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE
Reagan mentioned human rights as “another problem in our relationship with the Soviet Union.” He said “Soviet practices in this area, as much as any other issue, have created the mistrust and ill will that hangs over our relationship.”
Reagan expressed his “deep concern over prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union and over the virtual halt in the emigration of Jews, Armenians and others who wish to joint their families abroad.
“Our request is simple and straightforward, that the Soviet Union lives up to the obligations it has freely assumed under international covenants — in particular its commitments under the Helsinki Accords. Experience has shown that greater respect for human rights can contribute to progress in other areas of the Soviet-American relationship.”